When I started my current job back in July of ’06, I took a different route to go home than I do now. Once I got off the exit, there is this strip where you will often find a guy selling flowers and some homeless people asking for spare change. One the men asking for spare change stood out to me. He was always smiling. Every single day, Monday through Friday at 630pm he would be there smiling. On top of that he would always strike conversations with anyone that stopped next to him. There’s a long traffic light there so no matter what, you would one day end up stopping next to him. He wouldn’t do a special dance or gloomily look you in the eyes. He would simple greet you and talk to you if you allowed him too. He seemed like a decent enough guy so if I could, I gave him some money weekly.
I purposely didn’t give him any money for several consecutive weeks just to see if he was friendly because he knew I was generous or if it was because he was just friendly. And the test seemed to prove that he was genuinely friendly. I used to give him $1 – $5 depending on what I had on me and what day of the week it was. At times I would catch him talking to other drivers about politics and sports. I was impressed. I thought, damn – I own a tv, pay the cable bill and I don’t even know half this stuff. This guy is sharp.
After I moved to a different building I stopped going that route, however, occasionally I would go that way to pick up my nephew. I’d run into him and chat. He even noticed I had a new car months later. Told me it was nice and the black one didn’t really look good for me. Again I thought, damn this guy is sharp. Even the police have given me tickets and mistaken the color of the car. Not this guy. Honestly, I felt like I had a bond with him. I expected him to be there any time I drove by.
Finally one day something changed everything. I spotted his side profile and was looking forward to what new things he had to say. Then I noticed he was on a cell phone, chatting away. How the hell did he, a homeless guy, have a cell phone? On top of that, who the hell was he talking to? I immediately thought of the guy in Coming to America that was posted up near the limo collecting spare change. The one that suddenly pulled off his “homeless” shawl to reveal his fresh clean suit. “Sh*t, I’ve been bamboozled.” I thought. This guy was playing me from the start. Playing the world. Maybe there’s some program that gives out cell phones to people in his situation, but I wasn’t looking into it that deeply. I was pissed for weeks. Felt like I was betrayed!
Originally when I started to write this, there was no point other to vent and share my exaggerated tribulations with you all. However, now that I’m closing I realized there is something of relevance to be said. That is, don’t be so quick to judge homeless people. For starters, not everyone you see asking for change is homeless. They could own a home and have a beautiful family, but they’re unemployed and in jeopardy of losing it all. Even if the person really is homeless, doesn’t mean he or she got there because of drugs. Some just made poor decisions that led them there. Some just had terrible luck and had no family or friends to help them out. And sure, some of them are in that position because they are crackheads*. You can’t tell what someone has been through just by looking at them. There are some crazy ones you should clearly avoid. And I’m not saying allow a homeless person to lead you into a dark alley or invite them to your home for dinner. I’m just saying don’t be so quick to think the worst of every single one of them. Then again, you’re a fool if you allow any stranger, homeless or otherwise, to lead you down a dark alley. Hell, I’m not sure if I’d let my friend lead me down a dark alley. I’m not trying to get shanked.
– Vic Louis
*Why does crackhead always come up as an error after spell check? Is it crack head? Crack-head? They don’t seem to have the same affect as “crackhead.” Regardless it should be in the dictionary. It’s one of my favorite words. Someone start a petition.
Happy Friday, it’s nice outside (well in Boston). Enjoy your weekend, be safe and all that good stuff.