When I went to Wal-Mart to buy a noise machine to help with the train incident mentioned here, a man in a wheelchair called me over as I got out of the car. Initially, I thought he was going to ask for money, and after living in Chicago, I NEVER give money to panhandlers. To my great surprise, instead of asking for money, he said, "Would you mind picking me up some food? I live outside and would really love a bag of grapes or something." I told him I would absolutely do that for him.
As I walked through the store, my mind was filling with all of the other things I should also get him. Knowing that he is in a wheelchair and doesn't have a fridge or pantry, I decided it would be best to limit my purchases to just a couple things.
When I left the store and walked back to my car, the man was nowhere to be found and was very disappointed. I was putting his food in my car when I heard someone yelling, "I'm right here ma'am! The manager ran me off." Never mind all of the creeps inside who aren't buying a thing, let's run off the needy man in the parking lot who is politely asking for food and not harassing a single person. I gave him his bag and he was so appreciative.
This whole situation really touched me. I have offered food to panhandlers before only for them to turn it down claiming dietary restrictions or that they simply "didn't like it." Living in Chicago, I lived at a 5-points intersection where the same panhandlers would sit on their respective corner every single day, most of them with some sort of an ailment. One night, I heard a lot of commotion and saw one of the corner's regulars, who had a bum leg, drunk and fighting with two guys in a BMW only to have his son run out from the house ACROSS THE STREET and drag him home. Oh yeah, his limp appeared to have been cured too. I could go on and on with stories of terrible encounters with Chicago panhandlers (this was just a more tame tale).
There were several newspaper articles about how panhandlers would take the train in to the city from their homes in the suburbs and earn over 6 figures a year preying on the tourists. Then two days ago, I read a story about a pregnant woman in California with her young son who would panhandle and then get in their new Mercedes counting their money as they moved on to another corner.
I don't believe that all panhandlers are frauds, but unfortunately most seem to be. Houston seems to have just as many as Chicago did. They are at practically every intersection. Under I-10 by my house, you will see the same people there for about a week or so, and then a new crop will show up. Rumor has it that a group in town will hire people from the homeless shelter to stand on the corner and then take a cut of their earnings at the end of the day.
I don't really know where I am going with this post. My original idea was to crack a joke about how the man at Wal-Mart was a genius and that maybe I should start grocery shopping that way (it just might get weird when I request things like a 20 lb turkey), but this has obviously taken a turn.
During this sudden cold front, all I can think about is that man. I hope he has somewhere warm to sleep. I hope he is a good, honest man who is just down on his luck and will find help soon. Mostly, I just hope I haven't been conned once again so I can restore a little faith in humanity.
Thanks for indulging me. Sorry this wasn't funny.