Thursday, November 28, 2019

I yelled at a homeless man ...

... and I'm not sorry. I know I should be sorry. I wish I was sorry. Compassion for the least among us is the hallmark of my Christian faith. Miss Melanie Wilkes -- my cinematic spiritual guide -- might have yelled at him, too, but at least she would be sorry.

There's this guy right here in town who has been homeless for years. He doesn't just stay on a particular corner, he moves from spot to spot. He's rather in your face with his panhandling, but I've seen him so often over the years that I know he's harmless. I don't like to take my wallet out of my purse when I'm on the street, so if I don't happen to have anything in my pocket, I don't share.

One day -- months ago -- he asked me for "a dollar." I said, "I don't know how much change I have, but you're welcome to it." I put some coins in his hands.

"I need a dollar."

For real. He said that to me. So I held out my hand. "If my money's not good enough for you, give it back." He mumbled and walked away.

Wednesday, he was on the el platform. It cost him $2.50 to get up there.*

He came up to me and asked for a dollar.

I flashed to the people I see in the city. The solemn, silent people holding their cups and their signs ("This is humiliating," "Anything is a lot when you have nothing"). Sometimes with their kids, often with their pets. Frequently with all their belongings in a garbage bag or shopping cart.

And this man came up to me and said, "I need a $1 for a sandwich." And I lost it.

"No," I said. "I gave you money and you told me it wasn't enough."

"You gave me a quarter!" He said, as if I'd offended him. I promise you, that wasn't me. I never give my quarters away because I need them for laundry. So that leads me to believe there's another woman here in town that he pissed off.

"I don't have to give you anything. I save my money for people who say 'thank you.'"

Not me
"What do you expect me to get with a quarter?"

"I don't care! Go away!"

"I got you, Buddy," said a voice from behind me.

"Go talk to him!" I shouted. "He's nicer than I am!"

The homeless man moved behind me, saying over and over, "She gave me a quarter. What do you expect me to get with a quarter?"

I don't believe he's that badly off because 1) he doesn't even carry a backpack, and if he was homeless, he'd have his belongings with him and 2) he had the $2.50 to get on the el platform. I resent him approaching me -- an old lady by myself -- and getting in my face. And the lack of gratitude just staggers me.

I know I should feel bad about this exchange, but I'm still angry. At him. I hope I get to the point where I can honestly say I'm angry at myself, or at least ashamed. But to be honest, I'm not there yet.


*Our el stop is manned by a CTA employee during morning/evening rush, so I know he didn't jump the turnstyle.

1 comment:

  1. My country mouse self is all "HOLY SHIT!!!!!" I would have fainted!

    ReplyDelete

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