I take the same route to the grocery store every week. Every week just before I make my last turn I see a man with a sign on the side of the intersection. "Hungry, Anything will help. God Bless." The sign shouts out to the passing cars.
The man has a weathered look about him. His clothes appear to be second hand but otherwise seem to be well kept. He sports a dark green army jacket and a kind smile. A McDonald's bag and medium soft drink rests on the ground next to him. I often wonder what it's like to live with such hardship. Then I remembered seeing him there last week and the week before. In fact I think he's always been there. Always with the same sign. I think he started adding the "God Bless" bit around the holidays and it just sort of stuck. He always has a McDonald's bag with him too. I then drew several conclusions.
A.) He is making just enough money to buy McDonald's every week.
B.) Some kind pedestrian buys him McDonald's. Every week.
C.) He has been reusing the same McDonald's bag and cup since 2003.
D.) The light turned green two minutes ago and the driver behind me is annoyed and honking at me to move.
I move on with my thoughts still on the move. Many will argue that the economy is to blame. I have seen this sort of thing since High School. (That was 1996. I know, I'm old. Shut up.) Others claim that these so called beggars make more money then you or I. Perhaps that is true. It depends on how much they work at it. Panhandling does require persistence just like any other job.
One thing I have noticed are the signs themselves. They seem to all have the same theme. "Hungry, Need Cash." "-God Bless." I could almost swear it was in the same handwriting. Maybe they can't read or write so they all turn to the same guy who charges them two cigarette butts per word. Or one sign for two slightly smoked cigarettes. (Ok, I am distracting myself again.) The other thing I've noticed is the absence of the "Will Work for Food." Perhaps that part IS because of the economy. They know that there are no jobs, however pocket change is still easier to come by.
Whether you think panhandlers are a burden or the result of the economy, I don't think they are going anywhere for a while. In a way they are like pop up ads along the super highway. You go to a website or read a blog (like this one) You will notice little ads on the corner. They may say something like "Try this free for 30 days." or "Get rid of scurvy by following this one weird tip (Hint: Oranges)." But they all basically say the same thing. "Can I have some money please?" This is no different than the panhandler. He may work for donations but it's the same thing. Would it be any different if they were mimes? Both Mimes and Panhandlers have no problems with sacrificing their dignity for money. What if they were jugglers or provided a small service (Besides cleaning your windshield). There should be a free training course for the modern panhandler. It could specialize in skills tailored to the competitive market of todays distinguished begger. Here are is an example of the curriculum.
-Sculpture (Give out free mud sculptures to people who donate.)
-Be a human coat. (You could drape yourself over someone when it's cold and they could wear you for an hour.)
I could go on for days. I am interested to know what you the loyal readers think. Is this something we should deal with? If I were rich and wanted to impress some investment bankers by taking them to some fancy place (Like Panera) I sure as hell wouldn't want them to see beggars on the street corner (perhaps if he was eating fire or doing somersaults I would.) Please send your thoughts and opinions or comment below.