Our first night in New Orleans, my friend and I went to a nearby café for a bite to eat. We were nervous about walking around an unfamiliar city after dark, but we were hungry enough to venture out anyway.
On the way back to our hotel, maybe half a block away, a man asked me for money. I thought about how my wallet was wedged into the tiny purse I use for travelling and worried that pulling it out could invite a robbery. So I lied and said I didn’t have any.
“You look like that and tell me you don’t have any money?” His angry voice shouted after me as we continued walking.
I wasn’t sure what about my look made him think I had money. Perhaps it was just the fact that all my sale-priced store-brand clothing was clean? Still, I cringed because the man saw my lie.
When we got to our hotel room, I pulled my wallet out of my purse and dumped the change onto the desk. I decided I wouldn’t let myself be in that position again. At home, our area is free from poverty and homelessness. If people are struggling, it is hidden behind their manicured yards and cars financed with 84-month loans.
Before we left the hotel each day, I shoved all my coins in my right jeans pocket. When I made purchases throughout the day, I refilled my pocket with change and a few dollar bills.
We met a man with a dog named Charlie (oddly enough, the man didn’t give his own name.) We visited with the panhandler and his dog for several minutes before we continued on our way.
We paused and listened to a guitar player, a jazz ensemble, and enjoyed the rhymes of “Bongo Man” as he played the drums and made up hilarious rhymes about passersby. Here’s one he did for us:
And this lovely lady
You’re so kind,
You helped save my behind.
Now I can take my wife to dine,
And get some peace of mind.
I’m the Bongo Man
Some people say I’m crazy
But I work hard, and I ain’t lazy;
Some people say I’m a louse
But I would never rob your house-
Or your car…
(You people park too far)
We paused to look at human statues – people painted silver and gold that held their poses without so much as a muscle spasm. We watched street artists with their easels set up on sidewalks paint canvases while people gathered around. I encountered a homeless man behind me in line at the convenience store wishing to purchase a can of beer, but worried he might be a bit short.
So many people were looking for money (with varying degrees of creativity). Some may shake their heads and call me a fool for giving them money. Maybe I am. They could be exaggerating their need for money…they could have nice houses and a closet full of new clothes…they could be off to buy booze – or worse, drugs. On the other hand, they could have a family to support…they could be saving coins for their next meal…they might need money for medical care.
I don’t need to know.
As for the man who needed help buying his beer? Sure, I would personally opt to buy a food item rather than alcohol. But then again, maybe an afternoon beer buzz is just what this man needed in that moment to make a less-than-perfect life shine for a little while.
Maybe beer was this man’s chocolate. Shouldn’t we all be able to have a taste once in a while?
~~~God’s “2 Cents” on the subject~~~
Luke 6:20-21 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”
Matthew 5:42 “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”