A few blocks down, Patrick Kearns and Charles McCurley are protesting panhandlers like Post, saying they’ve hit their limit seeing solicitors with questionable stories. They flashed signs Wednesday that read, “Keep your money because no one out here is homeless. All frauds.”
“I was driving down this strip, three guys walked across to the Wendy’s and got into a brand new Honda CRV, and I proceeded just to drive behind them a distance and followed them all the way to the Causeway,” said Kearns. “So they’re driving from the southshore up here in order to come collect money.”
McCurley said, “When you see them jumping in brand new Saturns and late model vehicles, driving better stuff than we’re driving, something has to be done.”
I do not understand people who spend all day imagining how poor people are gaming the system. I do not understand the impulse to ban the buying of steak with food stamps. I do not understand carping on social media about somebody you saw with soda in the grocery line.
I do not understand “protesting” panhandlers. Something has to be done? What are you doing? I mean it, what are you accomplishing here?
I’m not saying you have to give money to panhandlers to be a decent person. I know people who work in homeless services and I understand all the arguments about not giving money to panhandlers. I’m saying if you don’t give money to panhandlers, at least shut up about the panhandlers. Shut tup about the guy who bought sugary soda with his LINK card. Shut up about the person who you think isn’t really disabled. Shut up about your opinions and your superiority and your loudness and your righteousness. Drive past the panhandlers, and keep your goddamn cakehole closed.
Is it that hard? There’s TV to watch. Go home and watch TV. Read a book. Go out and have a martini and live your damn life without having to prove how much everybody else sucks. Aren’t we busier than this, guys? Don’t we have things to do instead of fact-checking the grocery cart of the person in front of us, or vehicle-stalking the purportedly homeless? I can think of a thousand things to do that would be more fun than that up to and including scrubbing my bathroom floor.
This makes me angry but it also makes me so, so sad, because these are small, stymied, miserable people and they’re an awfully big slice of the population. They’re holding signs up protesting the panhandlers because they need to justify why they’re not charitable. They need to make themselves feel better about not sharing what they have. Opening ourselves up, soul and pocketbook, to one another is a human instinct and like all our elemental shit it’s scary and loud, so we tend to shove it away.
It’s not mean. It’s worse. It’s chickenshit. Hold up a sign protesting the panhandlers because then you don’t have to think about helping the panhandlers. Then you don’t have to think about where they’re coming from and why this is a better option for them than doing almost anything else (if you think being a panhandler is fun, go do it for a day and get back to me). Then you can still feel like a good person while you sleep under your snug roof and drive around in your nice car and see people by the side of the road with signs.
We don’t give to charity because the recipient deserves to get it. We give to charity because we deserve to give it. It’s about expanding the circle of those we consider our own until that circle encloses us all and we all get to heaven. Rebelling against that impulse, beating it out of society and one another, is a sin against your human soul. Protesting someone else’s need, fraudulent or not, wasteful or not, pointless or not, is just holding up a giant sign announcing your own.
You might as well be standing by the road with a sign that reads PLEASE. PLEASE HELP.