I Wanted To Believe
It was like any other Friday. I took the train home early to avoid the usual crowd. I was about to doze off in my window seat when a high-pitched female voice startled me.
It was from a woman standing on the aisle with her teenage daughter. She said that they were homeless and pleading the passengers for money so she and her daughter could have a place to stay the night.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some passengers thought that she was breaking the law. But, believe it or not, panhandling for gratuitious donations is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s aggressive panhandling that is illegal. Even then, cops hardly enforces the law.
I looked at them and they didn’t fit the profile of homelessness, at least, from the way I imagined it to be. Yhey didn’t stand out like a sore thumb. They were neatly dressed and showed no sign of destitution. The daughter was even wearing fashionable black jeans.
In this day and age, however, looks could be deceiving. When i was laid off a few years ago and applying for unemployment benefits, a guy sitting beside me came in a Mercedes-Benz. For this reason, I thought the woman and her daughter deserved the benefit of the doubt.
Panhandling could be demeaning. It could cut deep into one’s self-pride. It could be the last resort for the truly desperate. But it could also be used to scam people as shown in the blockbuster movie, Slumdog Millionaire, where a syndicate used children to beg for profit on the streets. As a result, people are highly suspicious of pandhandlers in general making it harder for those who are really in need to get help.
When the woman said that she only had $48.62 in her purse, I took her word on it. I and a couple other commuters gave her a dollar each disregarding the dictum that there’s a sucker born every minute.
“Bless you,” she said as she took the money. In my heart, i wanted to believe it was a dollar well deserved.