We wonder what drives people to holding a sign on a corner. Are they really homeless and hungry? Are they doing OK and just completely lacking in pride or a sense of personal responsibility? Do they get more money on the corner than they've been able to earn doing actual work? Are they lazy? Are they criminal? Are they dangerous?
Corner beggars are so common that we've all had to decide how we personally handle our encounters with them. I choose to look them in the eye and smile. I don't carry cash most of the time, but if I happen to have a dollar, and if I hit a red light, I'm inclined to hand the money over with a polite comment. More often I have food. I can roll down the window and say, "I don't have any money, but are you hungry? I have an extra sandwich," or some such thing. I've found that most people accept the food, which leads me to believe they're genuinely in need. But what do I know -- they might recognize that it helps their act to accept, and they can throw it out after I'm gone.
I find it sad that we've had to build our defenses against these people, because it's so hard to tell anymore who is good and decent, and who is dangerous and conniving. The few have ruined it for the many truly in need. Just as the few terrorists have ruined it for the Syrian refugees, and the crackpot candidates ruin it for whole political parties. Just like extremist Christian fundamentalists ruin it for truly spiritual, kind souls. Just like a need for security prevents us from sharing all we have. Just like responsibility to our loved ones keeps us from helping a hitchhiker or any other stranger who could be dangerous.
Today is my birthday. I appreciate all the kind and loving phone calls and cards and Facebook comments, but I have to admit to feeling sad today -- sad for our race with a few members being cruel and selfish to ruin it for those of us who want to share and interact and connect and lend a hand. We have such potential to be more, to do better, to accomplish greater things, to build a global community, if we don't let those few, those very few, ruin it for us all.