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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gadzooks. The Boy is Right. I AM a Hippie.

Meanwhile, back in Minneapolis, the indigent crowd the sidewalks and the cardboard signs are out: Will Work for Food.

There was a time that I was susceptible to these signs. How could I not be? For a bright gal, I can be shockingly gullible. Raised by hard-working, self-sufficient types for whom asking for help is a last resort, I had little experience in how to answer the question, “Ma’am? Do you have any spare change?”

But of course, my good man! How else can I help you? You hungry? You got somewhere to stay?

It wasn’t long, however, before I noticed that, contrary to feeling good about helping someone out, I usually felt “had”. As a matter of fact, there were times when I felt downright grumpy about it.

And then came the day where I gave someone “bus fare, ma’am. If you could just give me bus fare so I could get home to my fambly…” Hey! Who doesn’t want to go home? Especially to fambly? I gave him the $2.50, wished him luck – and watched in mute, Midwestern horror as he hit up four more women for that same bus fare, watched as he climbed onto the same bus I did only to de-bus at The Moose, where there was a special on tap beers and dollar tacos…

Initially, I felt I had gotten nothing out of that exchange, but it wasn’t true.

I got wise.

This is not to say that I’ve stopped giving away my money.

I still pay my taxes, after all.

And I’ve been known to give money to the guitar player with the long hair and the incredible voice. And I give a dollar to the little accordion player and his South American polkas. And if that trumpet player that used to stand in front of the IDS shows up again, I’m going to give him money, too.

But it’s not always about money.

It wasn’t long ago that I was coming home from Mary’s, exiting from 94. I was sitting at the lights, just blocks away from a paint-peelingly seedy little strip joint. Humorously, its sign, aside from the titillating “Topless Topless Topless”, also asserts that it’s been “Voted Best Pizza in Twin Cities”.

One can only shake one’s head. Voted by whom?

On this particular day, and in this lovely part of town, where free-range litter roams unencumbered by constraint and the sunlight hits the broken glass just so, there is a young woman – 20? 21? – standing at the lights and holding a sign.

Hitchhiking to California. Need Socks and Tampons.

I roll my window down.


She faces me.

“Really? Socks and tampons?”

She smiles. I can’t get over how young she looks. “Really.”

I dig frantically through my purse. The light will change soon…

“Here!” I yell.

She runs over to the car, and I hand her everything I can find.

“Oh, man! Thanks so much!”

“I’d give you my socks, but I’m not wearing any.”

“Yeah, but you’re giving what you have.” She smiles, all clear skinned and bright-eyed.

The light changes.

“Have a good day!” she says, backing away.

“Say “hey” to California for me!” I yell.

Sometimes you give, and it's a burden you add to other burdens.

But sometimes you give, and the load becomes lighter...


mybabyjohn/Delores said...

And you are a giver Pearl...you are a giver. You give to us every day of your humour and sometimes, sometimes, it's all we have.

vanilla said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: You are such a kind person. I, too, have fallen victim to the "bus fare to fambly" ploy.

Joanne Noragon said...

You know, it's all about the sincerity. They were playing music. She was smiling and on her way. Socks and tampons would sure ease the trip.

fishducky said...

Did you give her ONLY money or tampons, too??

joeh said...

That is why I never have a tampon when I need one!

Very funny post...as usual

jenny_o said...

There's a whole lot of wisdom right there in those last two lines. And it doesn't just apply to money, socks and tampons :)

TexWisGirl said...

i usually give money. even if it's a scam, i figure their life is harder than mine.

Eva Gallant said...

Now sox and tampons...that's a good cause! You are an angel, Pearl.

Linda Myers said...

Recently, at an interstate rest stop, a 60ish bearded man sat by the restrooms with a sign. Vietnam vet needs help.

On the way into the mens room, my husband, also a vet of that conflict, gave him $20.

On the way out of the restroom, husband noticed the man was still there. Smoking a cigarette from a fresh pack.

Oh, well.

jabblog said...

Very true, Pearl. I've been had many a time but there are some who really need a hand and I reckon they make up for the con merchants.

sage said...

What a wonderful story! You have a good heart, Pearl.

Casey Freeland said...

My wife is the unconscious giver, the "judge not" giver. An inspiration really. Once in a while though, I pull one out. I like to go into a grocery store and come out with a separate bag of goodies for the "couple-in-need" on the sidewalk. They are always so happy.

If we all spend our time worrying about being "had", then we put our own egos and internal conditions above our own generosity and expressions of humanity, and that's kind of a crappy place to be.

Great post as always lady!


darsden said...


Geo. said...

I live in California and can confirm a statewide shortage of socks and tampons.

Mamma has spoken said...

A titty bar and pizza that was voted the best. I think it was the men who voted because they really didn't care about the pizza as long as there were boobs to watch.
When I was in Alaska, there was a panhandle who had a cardboard sign that read that he accepted VISA. Damn that made me do a double take and made me wonder how in the world he was able to swipe it :o/

NotesFromAbroad said...

lol, socks and tampons. She won't need socks in California.
You are a giving person Pearl. I like that.
I like you. besitos.

Ms Sparrow said...

Great post, you sweet thing!

Mitchell is Moving said...

And it's such a fine line between the two. Hope she got her socks and tampons. We have a guy who sits on the street making actually charming souvenirs from cut and folded beer cans. His sign reads: (in Spanish): Need money for my Porsche and my villa in Marbella.

kj said...

nice, pearl.

i was in harvard square late at night and a young girl approaches me for bus fare. Can i write you a check, she asks me? i have the money but the ATM won't take my card.

I give her a ten dollar bill. She writes me a check. When she leaves my friend says you're never gonna see that ten again. I rip up the check.

Why did you do that? my friend asks me.

I'd rather not know, I tell her.

same thing pearl, right?


My fr

savannah said...

xoxoxo for you, sugar!

The Elephant's Child said...

Sometimes I have been had, sometimes a part of me knows I have been had. And I still give. I feel better about giving when I can than I do about denying. My choice.
Another lovely caring post. Thanks Pearl.

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Pearl! Your kind of kindness is rare. I don't want to be scammed like a numpty, but I'm willing to share and help anyone who needs it. As I saw painted on a wall earlier today - you don't need a reason to help someone. Hats off to you. Indigo x

Amber Star said...

A young man was panhandling outside the CVS where I go to pick up my prescriptions. I gave him a few dollars to get something to eat at the Sonic across the street. His eyes lit up and he told me he could get something good with that. He might have been telling me a story, but it was cold that night. It doesn't get as cold here in Texas as it does in Minnesota, but it gets cold when the wind is blowing.

Good karma will come your way for your good deed.

Stephen Hayes said...

It's hard to know when to be generous and when to be wary. When I worked downtown I was pestered a lot by people who'd chosen to live on the streets. Eventually when I saw them approaching I'd ask THEM for money first. They soon left me alone.

bill lisleman said...

Oh the skeptic in me asks is there a California St/Ave in the Twin Cities?
This summer I was walking back to my car at a roadside restaurant and man approach and told me a story of kids and not being able to buy gas for the trip home etc. I did notice a few young people in his old minivan so I gave in and gave him a few bucks. Afterwards his story in my mind sounded more doubtful with every mile I drove away from that place.

Rose said...

I know the feelings of wondering if you've been had. I now will fill a large Ziploc baggie with crackers, a pop top can of soup, a container of juice, individual package cookies, napkin, plastic eating utensils, small box of raisins, fruits snacks, nuts and keep it in my car so when I see someone with a sign saying they need money for food, I hand it out the car window to them. This way I know they are eating and not using for drugs or alcohol.
One time I met a family outside a grocery store with 2 young children in a grocery cart and a sign saying they were hungry. I went into the store and bought 2 big bags of food for them (soup, canned spaghetti, canned ravioli, fresh fruit, cookies, crackers, bread, canned tuna, juices,etc.) and a can opener as well as paper plates, paper bowls, plastic silverware, napkins, and cups. I also included some candy for the children. I went outside and presented it all to the family, who happened to have a van. I felt this way I could ensure that the children were being fed. They were very surprised and grateful. Then I went back inside to get the groceries for my family, feeling very good about what I had done.

Tempo said...

Lovely post Pearl...

Linda O'Connell said...

Now, that was a frantic pleading.

My husband was approached by a woman who asked for $18.78 cab fare, to get to her car thirty miles away to get her timing chain repaired. She needed that amount for a taxi to take her to the airport. So dummy gives her $20. Twenty bucks won't get you around the block in a taxi, I told him. I He said, she knew what she was talking about with that car, so it was legit. I said, "Look at her across the street on the parking lot taking that guy for another twenty for her timing chain." And so she worked her corner....or I should say parking lot.
You are generous. I will buy a meal for anyone, but money, not so much anymore.

Douglas said...

Sorry for the day late comment. I first ran across the "Got any spare change?" folks in California in the late 60's. My response was always "Spare change? No, I think I will be using all of it by the end of the day." Strangely, I never felt "had."

Paula Wooters said...

An even nobler gesture if it was your last tampon. Kudos for giving toward the gift that keeps on giving, (until you hit your 50's.)

Diane said...

And you give us the beautiful lesson. All packaged up and pretty! Love it!

Amy said...

I did a lot of charity work with the homeless in Vegas. There are two types of needy, those who are so humble and gratful that they cry over a new pair of socks, and those that feel entitled, and complain about the selection. It's harder to give or feel good about giving when it doesn't feel appreciated, but in the end the deed is the reward.

NellieVaughn said...

I gave a homeless couple 20 dollars and a pizza I just purchased. I was so mad when they actually took what I offered. I wouldn't have done it if I was crazy from starvation.