these new eyes of mine
December 7, 2008 7:21 AM Subscribe
When do you stop to help a homeless or disabled person on the street?
posted by hydrate to Human Relations (45 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
For the past three Sundays, I've gone to the same outdoor marketplace. I've been here countless times in the last 14 months that I've lived here. But the last 3 times, I've noticed this same person.
He sits on a pedestrian overpass, crossing over a busy street. His face is terribly burned and disfigured. He's in rags. He has no hands. He has a can in front of him, with a little money in the bottom.
The first time I saw him, I looked away and kept walking. But I felt terrible. The next week, he was there again. I was with a friend and asked if maybe we should stop and do something. He gave me that age-old line that giving the homeless money does very little to actually help their situation and is really just a way to make YOU feel better. Again, we kept walking. All week, I've been thinking about this man. He was there again today.
This time, I just couldn't ignore him. Heart pounding and all nervous, I quickly dropped the currency equivalent to 20 bucks in his little bucket and kept walking. But about 20 feet later, I stopped. I had to turn around. I went back, knelt down and wrapped the scarf I was wearing around his neck. I put my hand on his shoulder for a moment and just looked in his face before getting up to walk away.
This experience has shaken me in a way I can't describe. It wrecks me that he's invisible to so many people. It wrecks me that I walked past him 2 other times and did nothing. It wrecks me that I can't do more. The whole thing just...wrecks me.
That's a long intro to my question: What is the best thing to do when you see an immediate need like that in front of you? Is it actually helpful to stop and give a little money or buy them a meal or cup of coffee? Or are actions like that an effort to ease your own guilt? Are you really just enabling them to stay in their current situation?
In every city I've ever lived, I've walked past the homeless without really thinking or noticing. Today I stopped. I'm ashamed it's taken me this long to see and I feel powerless knowing what to do with these new eyes of mine.