Some days I’m convinced the world is too complicated. The past week is a good example:
- People mourning the undisputed King of Pop, who for the last 15 years or so traded in that crown for the King of Weird. Musical brilliance and creepiness combined. That’s complicated.
- The ongoing crisis in Iran. Bottom line: freedom and democracy good, bloodshed bad. Beyond that, I’m lost trying to understand the political ins and outs.
- Then there’s Honduras. Did you hear they had a military coup this weekend? The funny part is listening to people argue why one side is legal and the other illegal. I swear if you switch the names it’s the same argument.
- And let’s not talk about the time I tried to explain Twitter to a friend at a party.
For all the complication and confusion and head-scratching, I’m glad that some things are simple:
- Like water.
- Like the importance of having a place to live.
- Like adoption. OK, there’s not much that’s simple about adoption, but kids should have families. Who can argue with that?
For all the complication in the world, sometimes we need a little simplicity.
I saw him again today, standing on the corner of 9th and Hennepin. We had a slushy mix of rain and snow last night, and today the sidewalks were covered in water and ice. Every curb sported at least a three inch-deep puddle. I spotted him standing there under the red awning of the closed porn shop, and I lowered my gaze. Thankfully I was too busy navigating the icy puddle and maneuvering around the crowd of people who just stepped off the bus to make eye contact.
He just stood there, arms in his coat pockets, bag resting on the concrete sidewalk. One more person passing him by.
Do you have any spare change?
How are you supposed to answer that? Of course I do. I have fifty cents in my bag and another dollar in my wallet. Do I need it? Not really. I could fairly easily part with it.
But how do you answer the request, usually from a homeless person? Some people like to answer ‘no,’ and quickly walk away, rationalizing that free hand outs won’t help anyone. And there might be some truth to that. But part of me thinks that’s just a nice excuse to clear your conscience and walk away guilt-free.
My standard answer is to pat my pockets and mumble something like, “No, sorry, I don’t,” –which is usually a lie. I’d have to dig that fifty cents out of my bag and I’d be two minutes late for work. Even though I get there ten minutes early every day. There’s one guy I recognize. He always stands on the corner of ninth street in front of the closed-up porno shop. A bag sits on the ground next to him and he stands there with his hands in his pockets, looking rather purposeful. Twice he’s asked me for change, but he hasn’t asked recently. He must recognize me and figured two times was plenty. Now when I see him I’ve taken to keeping my eyes on the pavement and not making eye contact.
I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way. Is it a good idea to give fifty cent handouts? Does that accomplish anything? Is there a way I can help these people more? I saw a guy standing on the corner of a shopping plaza holding a sign that said he needed work. Are jobs that scarce? Sometimes I wonder if these homeless people truly have gotten a bum deal (no pun intended), or if they’re just lazy. I understand that it’s difficult to get a job when you have no place to stay, but is it really as bad as that? And if so, isn’t there a more reliable way I can help then giving you my spare change? It just seems like we need a better solution.