Posted 2/19/2020 8:22 AM (GMT -6)
It has become omnipresent along our city streets these days, virtually everywhere in the U.S., and perhaps elsewhere. And it didn't used to be that way. People on the side of the street, usually looking down and out, unkempt, even dirty, holding up to traffic their little homemade cardboard signs, declaring something like:
HOMELESS HUNGRY PLEASE HELP
Occasionally a passing car will slow down enough to quickly hand the person a dollar bill or something, for which the street person usually expresses profuse thanks, and the car moves on.
As I said, it didn't used to be this way. I'm sure there were people with serious financial difficulties 10-20-30 years ago, but they never took to the streets to beg they way they do now, at least not in the numbers we are seeing.
Why has it come to this for some people?
It's even technically illegal here in Gainesville, Florida, where I am, although the laws designed to control it are currently tied up in court for various reasons. Safety issues are the concern.
But what prompted me to consider this matter of roadside "cardboarders" was an experience I had the other day. I was driving down one of Gainesville's larger streets, pulled into the left turn lane, and then stopped for the light behind a couple of cars ahead of me. While stopped and waiting for the light to change, I noticed a pretty young woman, likely in her late teens or early twenties, standing on the median at the intersection, holding up a cardboard sign that read:
HOMELESS AND PREGNET
and obviously hoping that at least some the drivers of passing cars might give her something.
Well, aside from the fact that the young lady had obviously flunked spelling in school, which under the circumstances was surely the least of her worries, I was actually thinking about giving her something ("What if she is telling the truth? Surely giving her a buck or two wouldn't hurt!"), but then the light changed, and I had to keep moving, passing her by.
I don't usually give money to people begging on the street, BTW, too many unknowns. But situations like this one make me wonder.
But my point is that all sorts of people can have all sorts of financial issues, and for some of them begging on the street with cardboard signs may seem to them their best option.
But then it also occurred to me, what if, as this thread's title suggests, I had seen while driving down a city street, a grim-faced person standing there, holding up a sign reading:
HAVE CANCER PLEASE HELP
DYING OF CANCER ANYTHING WILL HELP
or a woman holding up a sign reading
MY HUSBAND HAS CANCER PLEASE HELP
It would be an unexpected shock, to be sure, as one almost never sees this particular situation, at least I haven't, and I suspect my next reactions would be along the order of "Are these people being honest?" "Have they no other resources than street begging?"
But in view of my (our) own experience with the beast, would I (we) become more inclined to take such people at their word, and possibly give them a little something, because it's cancer? A call each of us would have to make individually.
So far I've never seen this happen on a Gainesville street, and it's certainly okay with me if I never do.
But I think what is really bothering me about all this, and something that prompted me to start this thread, is what I would call the sheer discrepancy of my situation and that of the sign-bearing person, assuming he/she was being honest, and their cardboard sign truthful.
That is, here I am, having had thousands of dollars worth of treatment for PCa, successfully so it would seem, and thanks to the insurance I had for it I am now unfettered by debt. But then there is this roadsider, possibly now overwhelmed by the debt of his treatment, and desperate for money to help, even if it means begging by the roadside.
This isn't about the generic "homeless and hungry" sign. This is getting a little more personal.
But as noted I have not had to face this moral, "roadside" question yet, and it's fine with me if I never do.
How do you think you would react?