March 21st, 2013

The Panhandler

by Jacqueline Whitmore

PanhandlerHe didn’t look at me as he walked past my red Mercedes Benz. That day he had probably walked past hundreds of cars stopped at the red light at the corner of 10th Avenue North, just off I-95.

He was wearing a dirty t-shirt, faded blue jeans and tattered sneakers. I can’t remember exactly what was written on the small cardboard sign he held in his hands but I do remember seeing the words, “75 cents, God bless you,” scribbled with a black marker.

It was a warm day in March as I sat in my cool, air-conditioned car, listening to music, waiting for the light to change. I had just attended a charity luncheon at the Kravis Center and was dressed in one of my finest business suits.

I could see the panhandler through my Gucci sunglasses in my rear-view mirror. He looked tired.

In the past when I saw someone like this I would think to myself:

He might take my money and buy drugs or alcohol. I don’t want to support his habit.

Why isn’t he working? He doesn’t look disabled. I’ll just perpetuate the problem and he’ll never get a real job.

But on this day, I had another thought. This is someone’s son, father or brother.

He reminded me of my brother.

I took three quarters out of my console, blew my horn, and held my arm out the window. He swiftly turned around and came running to my car.

When he approached, I gently placed the money in his thick calloused hand. Appreciation radiated from his sunburned face. I wanted to hold his hand, but I didn’t.

“My brother is homeless,” I said as I took a sharp breath and held back the tears.

“I hope not for long,” he said with a warm smile. I smiled back.

At that moment the light turned green, I put my window back up, and drove away.

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7 Responses to “The Panhandler”

  1. rosalinda on March 21st, 2013 6:28 pm

    This is a heartwarming story, Jacqueline. It is a good reminder to all of us…we don’t know someone’s circumstances.

  2. Rod on March 21st, 2013 6:36 pm

    Thank you! 🙂

  3. Patricia Rossi on March 21st, 2013 9:48 pm

    Bravo Jackie!

  4. Phoebe on March 22nd, 2013 12:44 am

    Could have been an angel in disguise. You never know.

  5. Torrey Shannon on March 22nd, 2013 4:42 am

    Jackie, I admire you so much for sharing this. Your brother is very lucky to have your love and compassion, as is the rest of the world. <3

  6. Douglas Trapasso on March 22nd, 2013 4:45 am

    Dear Jacqueline:

    Thank you for sharing this. Much prayers go out to you, your brother, and the man who inspired this post.

  7. Gillian Saunders on March 22nd, 2013 2:47 pm

    Jacqueline – I have had the same thoughts about homeless people – what if they use the money to buy alcohol or cigarettes. I started feeding a group of homeless people once a month through out church a few years ago and I got to know some of the local homeless people. Many of them are very nice and they are harmless. Some have mental disorders or are alcoholics. But most of them are just struggling to survive and they are hoping someone will treat them with kindness. I haven’t volunteered in this capacity for a couple years but I saw one of the homeless women I had met years ago in the parking lot of the Burlington Coat Factory. She came up and asked me for money. I told her I remembered her and I gave her $30. She cried real tears and hugged me and said she was so excited that she could go eat. I cried too. It feels good to really help someone that really needs it.

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