He walked over to my friend and asked her for money but also told her why he needed it. When he turned to me he was still telling his best story, leaning in a bit, rather shaky and not totally coherent. The bottom line being he needed a couple of dollars to buy a slice of pizza because he had used up all his money helping his sister.
This fellow was making the best of the steady flow of people going into an evening performance at the theatre and zeroed in on us. Well, he had a prepared story anyhow and we gave him a little money despite the awkwardness of the situation. Entering the theatre, my son waiting for us at the entrance gently commented on what we had done .He felt it encouraged such individuals to panhandle and that he encounters another fellow everyday requesting money from him using a standard tale about needing bus money at the same spot during the morning rush to work.
Later when we left the concert and the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk there was yet another man, seated in a doorway, holding up a cardboard sign, not saying a word but scanning the crowd for possible benefactors. Troubled by this and wondering if I should give him something also, I managed to get by and out of range of the guilt factor of not handing over a coin. At this point, hours later I’m wondering what the message on his sign said. I’m wondering about his story.
At dinner earlier the stories were about me involving my struggle to get a technical computer program problem straightened out so I can write for my own enjoyment and my storytelling preparations for an evening presentation I’m giving at the local library. My friend shared her stories about getting things packed for her trip to the cottage and also the elaborate vacation some good friends of hers had just taken. In between these stories we spoke about a great many other things such as lost children, a terrible local tragedy and our sadness about the recent passing of a talented actor who we felt we knew a little somehow because we admired his work so much. Of course we didn’t know his story at all and didn’t foresee the ending.
In the theatre, the showcased performer provided an amazing concert letting her music reach us on it’s own merit, no explanation given or required. During the performance her storytelling was there all the time through her wonderful trained voice and everyone in the audience was steeped in the richness of her range and style. Many thoughts and impressions stirred in my mind based on the experience and I was aware of the awe of the other audience members as they enjoyed the concert in their individual ways. So many different memories, impressions and stories must have been inspired by her tonight.
In the lobby I encountered a woman, visibly unwell but attended by friends.
A friend I haven’t seen for awhile reached out to me at intermission when I reached out to her. We have some shared childhood experiences and our stories are very different but there is a feeling of understanding there. We will find the time and talk.
My son’s story is all about his work, his art and doing what he has to do, right now. It’s all about telling a story and creating a shelter from reality. He has his responsibilities and he also has his creative adventures. At the moment it is challenging, meaningful and ambitious.
Hours later, I’m wondering about the man, seated on the busy sidewalk who quietly held his cardboard sign. The sign I didn’t read.
One response to “Mixed Messages”
When I lived in Florida everything was close enough to walk to and I used to walk to the bank to cash my paycheck. One day I gave a man my spare change. And then there were two men asking, And then four or five, and then a line of them all the way to the bank. It was costing me enough money each week by then to realize that I’d have to change what day I went to the bank. I was an easy mark.