I was driving home this afternoon and I saw a man standing at a traffic light in the middle of a large intersection. The man was wearing a brown t-shirt, black worn jeans, some scuffed up shoes and a brown light sweater that he had wrapped around his tiny waist. His hair was shaggy, his beard was at least a month's worth... and he held a sign made from cardboard and a sharpie pen that read: "Homeless and Hungry".
My heart sank for this man. I was in my car, the light was about to change and I had to be somewhere at a very specified time. As I sat there, I ached to give him some help. I wanted so badly to invite him into my car and take him out for lunch, then leave him with enough money to get himself some supper as well. Then a strange thing happened. I started to doubt his validity. I started to wonder if he was one of the "bums on the street" that everyone warns me about... the con man who actually makes more money being a bum than I do at my job on a day to day basis. And having thoughts like this made me angry at myself, and at society (even though in Toronto I witnessed this con first hand). Angry that we live in a world where people have to lie and cheat in order to make a living, and angry that we've become such an untrusting humanity.
How does anyone know anymore, who needs help and who doesn't?
I had a hospital appointment one time, not long ago and I paid for 2 hours of parking, but only ended up using 15 minutes of the time on the parking slip. I thought, "this is a waste, I'll wait and give my parking allowance to someone who pulls in and needs it". So I waited for a few moments and this really old beat up and rusty car came driving in. I motioned to the driver and rolled down my window. I explained to him and his passenger that I only used 15 minutes of a 2 hour paid parking ticket and would like to give the rest to them, if they wanted it. They were completely overjoyed, smiling from ear to ear and passing on great thanks to me. As I went to get out of my car, the passenger said "Noooo, don't get out, I'll come to you". So I waited and as she opened her door, I saw that she was an amputee, with only one leg. She was so grateful for the parking pass, that she, with one leg, got out of her car to come retrieve it from me. I was blown away. The parking only cost $2 for the 2 hours. TWO DOLLARS. And they were so grateful.
It's amazing how doing something nice for somebody can change society... even if it only lasts in that person's memory for a day or two, yet how so few people do nice things anymore. Maybe their smile was contagious and they helped lighten the world just because they were given a break that day and it made them happy, thankful, grateful. And those nice things don't need to be huge, just pocket change helped those people in the parking lot, and I'm sure just pocket change would have helped the man holding the sign.
Tomorrow if I see him, I will give him a few dollars, enough for lunch. If it's a con, I will be none the wiser, and I will be left feeling really good about myself for helping some stranger in need. What's $5, anyway?