Needy People

What does a truly needy person look like? It is difficult to discern as I drive by families panhandling by the edge of the drive at the Wal-Mart if they are honest or not. My heart wants to believe they are.

Yesterday provided an interesting twist to the panhandling dilemma.  I was leaving a shopping plaza with my daughter and we drove past two families on opposite sides of the road panhandling. Both entire families, children and dogs.

Now since I don’t know the stories of either family I can only base my decision on who to believe ( I wanted to stop and chat to find out more, but my daughter nixed that idea) on my drive by analysis. Not exactly scientific, but it’s all you have in those brief moments. I am sympathetic and I ponder the same question every time I pass by someone with a sign. Do I give food? Do I give money? As I try to rationalize it out in the two seconds that I am passing by and come to a value decision, the light usually turns green and I have to roll forward.

Yesterday was no exception. The family on the right looked tired, worn out and hungry. The physical appearance was if they had been working outside all day and still couldn’t make ends meet. They were sitting under a tree near the local Subway trying to gather the most shade that they could from the sparse tree. The kids were docile and calm, they all looked exhausted. There was very little activity in the hot sun, they appeared as they had enough for one day. Even the dog was exhausted. I don’t remember what their sign said, but I do remember how hot and tired they looked.

Across the drive was another family,  what appeared to be two parents and two children. They didn’t look weary or dirty. The kids were doing cartwheels across the parking lot and their clothes were clean and their truck fairly new. Their sign said “Americans need help too” .

It bothered me because it implied somehow that they were obviously Americans and  that the people across the way were not, and yet, I do not know that to be true, but a cruel assumption. Even in the world of panhandling there is competition, apparently. I couldn’t help it, in my soul I doubted the integrity of the family with the “American sign” and felt compassion with the family who looked as though they could honestly use some help. One family was Caucasian one was ethnic, which was which is not important.

My heart tugs every time I see a needy person, I cannot help them all so when I can I do. I don’t know their stories or how they got where they are, but sometimes I wish I could ask, because I am a fixer ( or so I am told). I am also a skeptic and cannot believe everything or everyone who asks for help. But sometimes my compassion outweighs my doubt and  I want to help the entire world or at least that family sitting on the curb at the Wal-Mart on an Indian Summer day.

Pay it forward when ever you can.

Until Next Time,






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