I went to the gym today after work.  Lately I’ve been taking city streets to get there, because I was having car issues and wanted to minimize my high-speed driving.  But Car has been fixed, so I took the freeway. 

I was halfway there went I started cursing myself.  I realized that by taking the freeway, I’d be passing (and more than likely stopping) at a corner that frequently hosts a homeless person with a sign.  And I realized that this is not the first time I’ve considered making a detour so as not to have to sit at a stop light, in my warm car, talking on my cell phone, possibly with a bag of food in my car, and try to ignore the “bum” on the corner, who is starving and freezing.  Just the other day, in fact, I breathed a sigh of relief when the bum was on another corner of the intersection, and I didn’t have to deal with it.  And by it, I mean my conflicted emotion when it comes to homeless people, and street-corner bums.

We all hear the stories, about the guy who “earns” $120,000 a year, tax free, by standing on the street corner.  I myself have seen a guy taking money from cars around me, and then walking over to a fairly new Mercedes and driving off.  Then there are the ones that use the money to buy alcohol.  And I’m not saying that all bums are these people – but these are the “bad seeds” that give the “honest” bums a bad name. 

My ex, M, was homeless.  When he was 10, he, his father and mother, and his baby brother (an infant) lived out of a car for three months.  They struggled.  His dad worked three jobs, including mowing a graveyard.  M mowed the graveyard while his dad was at one of his other jobs.  They never stood on a street corner and begged. 

I know the problems (at least, some of them) of being homeless.  It’s one of those vicious cycles – you lose your job, can’t afford your house, and then can’t get another job because you don’t have a permanent address.  And then, some people enjoy (for lack of a better word) being homeless.

So when I see the guy standing on the corner, a cardboard sign in his hands, that blank, vacant look in his eyes – I honestly can’t handle the conflict that goes on inside me.  It’s sad.  I want to help.  But is it really helping?  I try to do my part, donate food, clothing, etc to the right charities, and I remind myself of that during these times.  But it doesn’t help the person standing outside my car window.


One response to “Conflicted

  1. I struggle with this as well. Usually I try to keep boxes of granola bars and extra water in my car. This way, I can feel like I’m done something, but I haven’t given money.
    But I also think that if you have a good back, you should be able to find some sort of income-producing job. I don’t know what makes people resort to begging–mental illness? But then that is stereotyping a whole bunch of people.
    We have a corner in Matthews where every summer for the past 3 years, the same guy stands with the same sign at the same intersection. At this point, he seems to have chosen this as a career. I never feel bad ignoring him.