Our small group discussion tonight triggered a memory for me. Not a distant memory, but a fleeting one…one of those tangental things that you tell yourself “I’ll need to think about that later…”. My brain files are full of those fragments. Most never see the light of day again.
This one has been haunting me in the dark of night.
Twice in recent weeks, I’ve noticed a woman at a nearby intersection asking for help. I took note of her for a number of reasons – one being that there is almost never anyone at this particular intersection. It’s either not a good spot for getting help or it’s an undeveloped territory.
Another thing that stands out is that she’s generally well dressed. By well dressed, I don’t mean expensively, but she’s very clean and well groomed. It’s almost like she’s on a job interview.
Truthfully, though, I only noticed those things after I noticed her sign.
I’ve seen all sorts of signs used by people to garner donations. There’s the popular “Help – Hungry” and “Will Work for Food”. I have seen “Vietnam Vet – Please Help” (and noticed that the person must have fought in the war in a previous life because they were younger than I am). I have even seen “Family Killed by Ninjas – Need Money for Karate Lessons”. Honestly, I think the last one was a scam but you never know.
This lady’s sign was like no sign I’d ever seen. It was on a piece of 24×36 inch poster board. She’d written neatly with a Sharpie…and it was actually less of a sign and more of an essay. If you keep your letters 2 inches tall, you can write more on a poster board than you’d expect. She used every bit of space.
The sign was more than a plea for help, it was a sort of narrative explanation of who she was and how she got there. If the sign was to be believed, she had an Associates of Arts degree and a good work history. She was just down on her luck and needed a break. The unspoken message was as clear as the sign – “I don’t belong here, and don’t judge me for ending up in this place.” It actually wove several scripture verses to that effect in through her story.
Each time I saw her, before I could decide if I was going to help her…even before I finished reading the sign (It’s pretty long…), the light turned green and I had to go.
The second time, I drove away wondering….what would I put on my sign? If I had 12 seconds to ask you to help me and I was already a little uncertain about asking….what would I feel was important for you to know?
I’m not lazy. I’m a hard worker.
I don’t want you to think this is all there is to me.
My life is bigger than a sign and my destiny is more than a street side beggar.
Don’t judge me. It’s not like you have the reserves to live more than a few weeks without an income.
It’s important to me that you see me as human.
There are a lot of factors to getting to this place. It didn’t happen over night.
If I could be anywhere else on earth, I would be. But I’m here. In front of the Burger King. Can you help me?
I’m going to be looking for that lady tomorrow. Truth is, I don’t care what her sign says. I’ve read enough.
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