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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