Do you hate it when you pull up at a stop light and someone is standing there with a sign asking for money?
Why? Are you uncomfortable?
Why should someone who looks in some way (at least according to stereotype) destitute make you, sitting comfortably in your car, uncomfortable?
Do you ever give the person money? If not why not? Is it because you don’t have any, or because you don’t think they should have any? Why shouldn’t they; do you think they’ll just waste it anyway?
Or, are you one of those people who thinks it’s virtuous not to give them money because you figure everyone needs to look after themselves? Do you think they’ll just use it for drugs or alcohol, and really, you’re just helping them by keeping the window up and adjusting the radio?
Are you maybe one of those people who thinks “boy, if that person only spent the time they stand out here at an actual job they could do so much better?” Do you think that somehow the person standing there must be too lazy, despite the fact that they are making a huge effort to stand there, and sacrificing, probably, some dignity by asking strangers for money?
Do you maybe not believe the handwritten signs? You don’t think they are really homeless?
I know that a few of you reading this far roll down your window and fork over some loose change. Some out of the guilt or social pressure, and some out of kindheartedness. And those that don’t are not unkind people by any stretch.
But let’s maybe think again. That figure, head down, holding the sign is a human being. They are probably not perfect, and by society’s judgement, definitely not perfect.
But they are human beings.
He might be addicted, he might be homeless, hungry, cold, tired, maybe his teeth hurt, maybe his back aches, or his stomach burns.
Let’s collectively offer the little help of some spare change. Let’s open our hearts. Let’s roll down the window, and reach out our hands. We’re all in this together, all brothers and sisters, after all.
Nick Caumanns grew up in the Cowichan Valley and loves living here. He wants to make the Valley the best and most prosperous place for everyone who lives here.