Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm sorry

A boy of 19 or 20 approached me in the Target parking lot. He was tallish, with strawberry blond hair, and very, very sheepish.

"Excuse me, I hate begging, but my parents and I were evicted yesterday. We slept in our car last night, but I'm trying to get some money together because my mom has a job interview tomorrow, and we want to get her a motel room for the night."

My city has some pretty draconian panhandling laws, and for the first few years I lived here, I never saw any panhandlers at all. Of course, this didn't mean there weren't poor and homeless people. They just weren't allowed to tell you about it. But lately, I see panhandlers from time to time. Even the brazen kind, with signs that tell you exactly what they're doing. I can only assume that the need is greater. There are just too many to control now, and a law forbidding it is pointless.

My heart was aching for the boy, until he motioned toward a car containing an absolutely ravishing woman only a few years older than himself. That's your mom? It's not that I didn't give him money - I did. It's just that he was already humiliated enough, and I hardened toward him in the middle of his very sad story.

As I walked away, I looked toward the car with the beautiful woman in it again. In the car next to her? Yeah, that was his mom.

I don't know what happened to you and your family, and this was a while ago, so I hope you've gotten back on your feet by now. It's awful enough not to have enough money to cover your basic necessities, awful enough not to even have a place to live. It's not your fault. It's a small thing, my sympathy for you evaporating just a little bit over the course of a very short conversation. But you were having a hard enough time as it was, and if I made it even the slightest bit harder for you, I am so, so sorry.

I hope both your past and your future were easier than the day we met. I hope that was the very worst day of your life.

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