The Hustle

Yesterday morning, I was out running errands and as I’m turning into the shopping center, I see a man holding a sign that reads, “HOMELESS…” It said something under that, but I didn’t have time to read it as I was mid-turn and there were cars behind me. I go into the convenient store and ask another customer what he thought I should grab to give the man, since I don’t have cash and can’t get any from this particular store. Without blinking, he said, “Nothing, he’s probably not even homeless.”
I gave the man a sad look and said, “Okay, but I can’t assume the worse. Water? And….chips or?”
“Water or Gatorade and some chips maybe, but don’t give that fool any money.”

Given that I just said I don’t have any cash, I just nodded, grabbed the water and saw some peanut butter crackers. I’m thinking that’s more sustenance than chips, right? I passed on the Gatorade, because for all I know the man might be diabetic, right? Okay, so I take my purchases to the counter and by now, the whole store is talking about it. (Its a really tiny store.) My favorite cashier, Jimmy, is behind the counter saying how there are always guys on these two corners hustling and as soon as they get some cash they come and buy cigarettes.
As I set my stuff down in front of Jimmy, he looks at me smiling, “You’re getting this for that guy?”
“Yes, Jimmy. I can’t help it. You seen him around? What kind of cigarettes does he buy, I know you know.”
“Tall guy?”
“Not too tall,” I said.
“Only one I seen lately is a tall skinny dude. Ain’t seen him in a few days though.”
Alright, so I don’t buy any cigarettes for the homeless guy, but I’ve got water and crackers…and I did find $5 in my wallet. So, I drive back to the corner and the guy is gone!
He was just there a few minutes ago….I look all around and see no sign of him. I shrug and turn back out onto the main road to finish my errands. The main road takes me past the other corner. Which incidentally is a good ten minute walk from the first corner. There’s a different guy on that corner with a fresh hair cut (yes, I can tell…it was rather distinct and trust me, it was clean lines  and done recently) holding the same sign! I wasn’t able to stop at the second corner.

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So, was I about to be hustled? Were these two men a team? Were they really homeless? I can’t know. Did I feel stupid? No. I feel good knowing I was doing the right thing in my heart. I can’t imagine you’d have much to your name if you were willing to stand around begging for handouts. I’ve been homeless, but I’ve never pan handled. I honestly don’t know if this sort of thing is really lucrative. I’ve heard stories, but because of my ever so colorful past, I have a soft spot for people who are struggling to make ends meet. I’m quick to give to those I believe are in need if I’m able. I’ll probably never know if they were trying to hustle me or not, but does it REALLY matter? I’m not going to apologize for believing in people. Perhaps that makes me a bit of a fool, but I’d rather be a helping fool than to lose so much faith in humanity as to believe every person holding a homeless sign in hustling. *shrugs* It was on my mind, so I shared the experience. I’m curious though, what would you have done?

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. ReadMeri says:

    I dunno Sades… On the one hand when I was out of work and living on less than £50 a week, I once gave a woman begging on the street £20. I knew (by her demeanour) she’d spend it on booze, but honestly, I was concerned if I didn’t, she’d end up doing something worse for less money and I hated that thought.

    Did she need it more than me? No, probably not, but she’d have gone further to get it than I would. She needed to dry out, get clean and stop wasting her life frankly.

    I’ve also volunteered at homeless shelters and seen people who just can’t cope with the world at all. Sleeping rough doesn’t necessary equal begging for money (as you pointed out) and it makes me sad that our government isn’t able to (well, doesn’t anyway) provide more assistance to those folks who have no structure to rely on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ♥ Thank you for sharing your story with me. ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would have done the same. I will buy something like food and water or give a small amount of cash just enough for a hot drink and some food. I’ve done it quite often. At least i know they have enough for something warm inside them. I know, of course, they may choose to spend it on something else, but at least i did my bit. I have volunteered at homeless shelters too. I’ve done this at christmas many times, and it is a little harrowing to see people in that desperate need especially in this day and age.

    Liked by 1 person

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