Friday, June 18, 2021

Do we always have to care about others?


David Alfaro Siqueiros, "Our Present Image" (Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City)

     Last Father’s Day my wife bought me Air Pods Pro, a delightful pair of white ear buds. The sound quality is so pristine it brought tears to my eyes. The devices sleep in their own little sleek white lozenge that closes with a satisfying snap. Just the thing for the dad in your life and only $250.
     Walking the dog around my leafy suburban paradise, I wear them, listening to podcasts and audio books and music. They do block out the world, so if Kitty starts straining toward a passing dog, I’ll ask “Is your dog friendly?” while plucking the tiny marvel out of my left ear so I can hear the reply.
     Invariably, it is, and we humans chat superficially while our pets exchange sincere sniffs, tails wagging happily away. Then I slip the pod back in and float along like a bubble in the warm current of good feeling that is my life, for the most part.
     There was that thin young man who approached me Monday on the three-block stretch that passes for a downtown. He had on the standard summer uniform: shorts, a baggy pastel oxford shirt, untucked. Perhaps more sunburnt than is typical. He could have been 30, could have been 50. Hard to tell in the three seconds I appraised him. He asked me something, I removed my earbud and smiled encouragingly, anticipating his question: sometimes people step off the train and need directions. I love giving directions. It makes me feel so useful.
     “Can you buy me some food?” he said.
     “No,” I replied curtly, automatically, jamming my Air Pod Pro back into my ear and hurrying away, surprised and rattled. I twisted my head, trying to track him out of the corner of my eye, in case he followed me.
     Surprised because the refusal wasn’t me. I’m the sort of guy who would clap him on the back with a hearty “Of course!” and usher him into one of the fine eating establishments all around us. We were in front of Oliveri’s. Excellent lemon chicken. Across the street, Graeter’s, with its French pot process ice cream. That would perk up my new friend, and you’d now be reading the sad tale he’d unspool between bites of hot fudge sundae.
     But that didn’t happen.

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  1. Questioning your own response is more than a lot of others would do. At least you weren't smug and self righteous, yelling "Get a job."

  2. For many years after I gained sobriety I would never give panhandlers money because I didn't want to contribute to someone else's addictions . Then I read this from pope francis :
    People who don't give money to the homeless because they think it will be spent on alcohol and not food should ask themselves what guilty pleasures they are secretly spending money on, Pope Francis said..."There are many excuses" to justify why one doesn't lend a hand when asked by a person begging on the street, he said in an interview published the day before the beginning of Lent...But giving something to someone in need "is always right," and it should be done with respect and compassion because "tossing money and not looking in (their) eyes is not a Christian" way of behaving, he said.

    I am not catholic or even christian. But his words resonated with me. Now I always give whoever asks a couple dollars and don't think about what they might do with the money . After I give it to them it's theirs

  3. Cleveland, being as impoverished a major city as they come, has a lot of problems with the homeless and with beggars, although not like San Francisco and Los Angleles and Seattle. They stand on highway off-ramps and at stoplights. They ask for "money for baby formula" in front of drug stores. Baby formula is like gold to drug abusers. They mix the dope with baby formula before they inject it. But most people think it's "for our kids"...and they buy the sob stories. Not me.

    You don't see too may homeless in the residential area where I live, but we're starting to see more druggies on our quiet streets. They stop pedestrians walking their dogs. Now they are even knocking on the front doors of homes. They claim to be landscapers (without any tools, natch) looking for work. Or they come straight out with the baby formula story. Our neighborhood demographics skew toward the geezerly, although many younger folks are moving in. The buzz on the street tells them that we have more disposable income and are "nicer"...and therefore we make better--and more gullible--targets.

    If you spend any time on neighborhood websites (like Facebook and Nextdoor), you will learn that these activities are making residente extremely unhappy. It might even end up becoming an issue in our next mayoral race. But technically, the homeless beggars and the druggies are not violating any local or state laws.

    So, Mister S, when the destitute start knocking on people's doors, especially in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century, where does one draw the line?

  4. Mentally ill, drug addicted, often with physical disabilities and homeless begging in the streets during a pandemic. Many with children living under a bridge or in a tent. Most of whom haven't chosen this life something horrible has happened to them. Often they were neglected as children or are victims of domestic abuse. Some are victims of corporate opioid sales and turn to street drugs when they couldn't get them from their doctor anymore, after they became addicted. The support system and social safety net that is supposed to help these vulnerable people has failed them.
    It's not about being gullible it's about kindness.
    If you have a few bucks to spare and you can help a brother out do it.
    If not I'm sorry for your circumstance

    1. We have quite a list of charitable organizations on our contribution list. My wife handles all that. She tells me she writes at least a half-dozen checks every month. We are also volunteers, and donate our time.

      But just as I will not contribute to anyone over the phone, I draw the line at door-knockers...both solicitors and beggars...and being accosted on the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood, or outside a store, or at a stoplight. It's one thing to give to a worthy cause in those places, but they're the only cause these folks are interested in. The money they make may be going for food, or rent, or it might just be going into their arms or up their noses. There's really no way of knowing.

      We can spare a few bucks, but only up to a point. Your point is most likely different than mine. Truth is, I hardly ever carry cash money around anymore, so I have little to offer these people. Maybe that's a poor excuse, but it's the only one I can come up with at the moment.

      If you offer to buy them a meal, or buy food and then hand it to them, they will often throw it on the ground, or even in your face. They only want the moolah, the green, the dough.

      I could end this on a snarky and cynical note, and say that it's because the dope dealers won't accept food in exchange for drugs. But I wouldn't do that.


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