Fear, it is one of the biggest motivators in the evolution of man kind. A fear of the dark pushed us to create fire, a fear of the beast that stalked us pushed in to creating weapons, and a fear of death created modern medicine. At least that is my perspective. Fear keeps us grounded for sure, but sometimes it also holds us back. A fear of public speaking to being terrified of jumping out of a plane, there is something that deep down inside scares the living shit out of us. Especially clowns, or as I recently discovered, tiny hats. Anyone who knows me well knows my greatest fear, being homeless.
Whenever I say that, most people are confused. “Jeff, you have a job, family, and friends who would never let you go homeless, that is ridiculous”. My response is that of “Fears are usually irrational, they don’t need to make sense, otherwise they would be an obstacle to cross, not a fear”. Then the discussion turns to how amazing my hair looks and a listing of why 80’s cartoons are superior to present day ones. End preface…
Yesterday on my way back to Marion from Indianapolis I was on 82nd street getting on to 69 North in Castleton. A nice area, one I actually lived in for quite some time. As I waited for the light to change I noticed a man standing with the sign that he was out of work and needed money, anything would help. Now this is a rather high traffic area for those who, for the better sake of the word are, “Panhandlers”. I then noticed the man had one leg and my heart sank a bit. Fuck. Heading in to the end of October this guy is maneuvering a very busy intersection on crutches looking for a helping hand. Here I am trying to tinker around enough with my iPhone so I can pretend I don’t notice him.
After the light turned I went on my way, thinking to myself what a piece of garbage I am. Not turning over five bucks to help my fellow man, a guy that could have been a veteran for all I know, a group that is very high on showing respect for. Then justify it by recalling every 20/20 and “To Catch a Predator” special about how people asking for money are usually scammers and drive nicer cars and have larger homes than most. You start to think then if you gave money to everyone who ever asked for it, the guys on the streets, the kids in front of Wal-Mart, and all sorts of other causes, how long it would be until you had to get in line in the soup kitchen as well because you have given everything you have away. Maybe it’s those thoughts that keep you from madness each time we have turned a blind eye to poverty.
This has always presented an major issue to me. When I was a kid and my parents took me to D.C. I kept giving every, pardon my language, “Bum” on the street money. When I was out I started asking my mom if she would give me more money to give to these people. She said “Jeff, you can’t give all of your money away to everyone, you’ll run out”. This was an impactful trip. Seeing streets littered with men who were trying to buy a meal and could not. Now I know there are many who probably would spend it on booze or drugs. Shit, if I was on the street like that Lord knows I would turn to substance abuse. It’s not like the 37 cents in your pocket is going to buy the guy a new suit and a job interview. Maybe it will get him close to a bottle of mad dog though, get him through the night and take him to a better place, at least for a little while.
I conflict with the young capitalist republican in me. I don’t care for our welfare system and those who abuse it. In my honest opinion those who don’t work, (I said don’t, not can’t) and demand government assistance, in my America you would have starved to death by now. Although an individual who lost it all, and is just trying to survive long enough to get it back together, they deserve a shot. Maybe they can’t get on some government plan for some reason and there is a mouth to feed at home and so far this is the only way. A part of me wanted to drive back last night, find this guy and give him all the cash I had in my wallet. Maybe find out his story. How he got there, what the plan was, if there were pieces to re-assemble.
I guess it just makes me feel less of a human being, knowing that to tune out another person; I just needed to fiddle with Pandora for a few seconds. That if tomorrow the world turned upside down and my last resort to feed myself that day was to swallow every milliliter of pride I had, break down, and beg for money; would someone show me compassion. The word, begs, is small, but weighs heavy. When is the last time you begged for anything? Humiliation, embarrassment, and even fear are all endured through begging. It is something rare and in a sense, a cheap word to describe such massive vulnerability.
I am not sure if I was looking for a moral in my own writing, or using the internet as my own confessional. Maybe just a digital reminder that we are all vulnerable and often rely on the kind and caring hands of a stranger now and again. Either way, it always helps if you are playing the guitar or saxophone while doing so… Damn I love street music.