Panhandling, Surviving and Perspective….

I am still waiting to get approved for disability and it sucks. I have a place to live and less than $200 a month in food stamps, but no income. I have a dear friend who pays the important stuff for me…car insurance, internet, meds etc. I don’t know what I would do without that help. However, there are times when I wish I just had money in my pocket…not for luxuries, okay, maybe to just see a movie or something if I wanted. But, everything is about “survival” and “necessities” …there is no fun.

To make up for this I occasionally go out and panhandle.

So, Sunday I went out very early to panhandle. Now, just to be clear…I don’t beg. I simply stand on a corner with my sign that says, “Need Help. Please show some love. Bless you”. It is a humiliating and ego crushing thing to do, but I have learned this past two years that ego is bullshit.

Anyway, I stood out there with my sign for about 3 hours and did fairly well. It felt good. People were feeling generous… Well, except for the one lady who pulled over to roll down her window, dressed in her Sunday best, her bible on the seat and berated me for asking for help with a cigarette in my hand. (I quoted Matthew 27:1 and told her “God bless you”).

So…having stashed the money I collected in a can when I got home,  and feeling some sense of security about it, I decided to go out again yesterday afternoon.

I was only out there for about an hour, and it was going so well. One young man even went across to Dollar General and came back with toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and other essentials for me. (Can’t get those things with Food Stamps). I planned on staying just long enough to add to my “stash” at home and put some gas in my car.

That is when the cop showed up. He pulled up and I approached his car…I don’t recall the entire conversation, but he tried to tell me that I couldn’t be out there doing that. That it is illegal here. Well, I’ve read the code and I was doing nothing illegal. As long as I am not impeding auto or pedestrian traffic…and I am not directly asking for money, I am not breaking the law. Mr. BigCop though said that he was doing me a “favor” by not arresting me. REALLY???

I came home so upset, feeling like now my ONLY way of getting any cash has been taken away. I cried…I cursed the cop…I cursed SS for taking so damn long…I cursed my ex for leaving me the way he did.

I was so upset I didn’t sleep last night. At 7 this morning I decided to take my dog Penny with me to McDonald’s, then go to Overlook park to share breakfast with her.

When we got there I noticed a man sleeping on a bench, his worldly belongings at his feet, his body curled up against the cool, damp air.

As we got ready to leave I grabbed a couple of the dollars I made panhandling yesterday, and walked over to the sleeping man. He woke surprised that I was standing there…even more surprised when I asked if he had eaten today. There was not ONE bit of judgement from me as I smelled the alcohol on him. I felt compassion and sorrow for him. He tried to refuse my offer…but I was more stubborn than he.

I gave him the money and the few cigs I had on me…and asked him if I could pray with him. We both cried as I prayed for both of us…

I sat of the ground and we talked for a bit. I told him about some of the resources I know so well, and asked him to come with me to a day center where he could wash up and get out of the damp, cloudy day.  He didn’t want to go at first. He was at his lowest…didn’t care what happened to himself he told me. I did not give up on him and he finally gave in. As I dropped him at the center I gave him a huge hug, and my phone number ….more than anything…I pray that I gave him some hope.

I know what it is like to feel hopeless, helpless…like no one cares. I wanted him to know that there ARE people who care and that we can all do something to help…without judgement, but with compassion and a hug.

I came home to my little apartment, looked at the food in my fridge and my warm bed…and I quickly got over my anger and frustration of all that happened yesterday.

I only wish I could do more for him or someone else. I’ll be okay…God’s got this.

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