Maybe it was the fact that I just wished all my worldly belongings adieu, maybe it was the fact that I was driving BACK to Publixwhen I was almost to the hotel to give Randy his wallet he had left on the seat of the car, or maybe it was that I just got off the phone with my Mom and she told me about Michael Jackson’s passing, but I don’t remember being so mad that I’ve cried in a very long time.
As I was saying, Randy left his wallet in my car. I was supposed to be taking the kids back to our hotel room, and Randy was supposed to be picking up some things from Publix for dinner and meeting a friend in the parking lot to get his ‘Going Away’ plaque from the 6th. Yeah, classy, I agree.
So, I’m on 98 at the corner of Perry about to turn into Publix by the Brooks Bridge. I’m sure you’ve noticed if you live here or if you’ve visited, that this is where a lot of homeless hang out and panhandle. They like to hang at The Landing nearby, and there are some organizations near that provide food and shelter, etc…
These folks have never bothered me, never threatened me, and frankly, any ‘vagrant’ I’ve come upon, which is often, because this is my hood, has been quite kind. They have also been kind to my children – we spend a lot of time at The Landing (that’s a park on the Bay in Fort Walton Beach), and we’ve all chilled on the mini-pier on the bay on numerous occasions.
So, again, I’m at the intersection and I notice a few well-dressed people holding up signs for the passing traffic to witness. I see a woman holding up a sign, but her sign is facing away from me, so I notice her, and most notably, she’s wearing the smuggest face I’ve ever seen. This lady is pleased as punch with whatever it is she is protesting. I assume she’s protesting something since she didn’t have on a banana costume and a ‘going out of business’ sign over her shoulders. The light turns green and I could swear I see now that one of the signs say “Your Generosity Feeds Their Addiction”.
So, I find Randy, give him his wallet, and turn left on Perry so I can figure out what the deal is with these folks and would you believe that I was correct?! These “protesters” all had signs, and professionally made signs, mind you, that said something to the effect of either, “you are only feeding their addiction with your generosity”, or “I have a job, why can’t they?”, and frankly, my brain fritzed out a little bit at this point. I don’t really know what was on the signs verbatim. I do know that one of the homeless men was trying to explain himself to one of the “protesters” and the smug face was just feeding him the same line over and over again, “I have a job”. I then see that at least one homeless man has decided to brave the hostile situation and was walking with his “Homeless, God Bless” sign. There were about 10 homeless men and women huddled up away from the street corner looking totally freaked out.
Then I did something I shouldn’t have done. I rolled down my window and shook my finger at those people and yelled “SHAME ON YOU!”. Unfortunately my children were in the backseat and I totally freaked Jack out, I’m thinking because he could hear how angry I was. My voice was shaking. I rolled up my window and drove on so I didn’t have to listen to whatever was being said back to me about these folks drinking away whatever money I gave them.
Last week I was putting gas in my car and a homeless man came around digging in the trashcans for recycle-ables maybe, and I thought to myself that I should give him money, but I knew I didn’t have any cash, but a voice in my head told me to look in my wallet anyway and I DID have money, I didn’t even know where it came from. I gave it to the man and we left. Did this man go straight to the liquor store or to the bar with the money? I don’t know! I DON’T CARE!
I do really wish I could take away the world’s social ills, I wish I could do something that might have instead put that man on the right track, changed his ways, removed his demons, given him a good paying job… but I don’t know how to go about doing that. All I can do at this point as an individual is treat him with kindness and respect and love. And maybe it’s irresponsible of me, but I can let these folks make my children laugh, we can chat about the weather and feed the fish stale saltines. I can not run away. It’s all I have. Plus a few extra dollars.
I can’t though, for the life of me, understand what these ‘protestors’ were trying to prove? Is it not already ultimately degrading to have to beg for money? Must you march on top of these people and accuse them all of addiction and laziness? What have you done? What have you proved? What have you helped? All that time and energy and what have you done but kick a man down that can’t possibly be kicked any further? Who knew that was even possible?
I cried all the way home, I was so incredibly outraged.
I hope to God that this was a one-time thing because I just don’t think my heart can take seeing such ugliness.