Last week I noticed an older woman standing by the side of the road near Friendly Shopping Center, holding a cardboard sign. The woman looks to be late 60's, thin, attractive. She was wearing khaki's and a buttoned down blue shirt and the kind of round-brimmed straw hat women wear when they garden. All in all, she looked to be an upper-middle class woman who indeed had just taken a break from planting flowers.
She stood not blinking or smiling or trying for eye contact. Her sign read, "Cancer Patient. Please Help."
That's it. No mention of homelessness or needing food. I really wasn't sure what to make of it. And I was even less sure when--3 hours later--I saw the same woman on the other side of town off Wendover Avenue, again with the sign. My first thought was that she's obviously got some form of transportation. I don't want to ding her for looking nice, but my next thought was that she really doesn't look hard up. I'm kind of curious as to what help she's looking for--money to pay her medical bills? Is anyone giving her any as they drive by? I've passed her about 4 times now on different days, and I've yet to see anyone give her cash.
I also don't know how I feel about her sign. Oddly, I almost feel defensive of the homeless people's territory, like I want to tell her, "Hey, you. You can't hold that sign here. This corner is for the people who really, truly have no where to turn." But maybe she doesn't have anywhere to turn. I don't know...
I won't say never, but I rarely give to people standing on street corners. I just don't know that's the solution we're all looking for. Some people think those on corners are scamming us, or are just after drug/alcohol money and that may be true, but I also think if you're standing outside 10 hours a day in the burning sun or freezing wind, chances are you do have problems much greater than mine and maybe it wouldn't hurt to give a little. But this whole cancer sign woman bothers me--like maybe it's ushering in a new era.
I guess we'll wait and see.