Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rising to the Occasion of The Choice to Give

Today, on the way home, I pulled into my local Publix parking lot like usual.  It was 40 degrees and damp and cold out.  I had just driven in from Jacksonville.  There at the end of the island was a woman holding a child with a snow suit on.  A man stood beside her with a sign that said, "Help my family and 3 children".  The sign was made with cardboard mounted on styrofoam.  They stood, with him holding the sign and her swaying with the child who looked heavy.  He should have held the child and her the sign.  First doubt.

I proceeded to the parking area where I usually choose to park.  As I exited the car, I turned to look at the family on the island.  I was contemplating buying them a Publix family dinner.  But, after I grabbed my bags, I stood upright just in time to see the adults running and then stopping to click open the van and jump in.  The man ran back to pick up a Publix sack, then back in the van and they squealed off.  I couldn't tell if it was because he Publix staff had just walked out.

I saw a very similar group at the Fresh Market.  A woman holding a child with a sign and the tenish year old sitting in the grass just staring at the parking lot.  Her sign said simply, "Help Please".

I did give the Fresh Market lady $5.00.  But, when I saw the trio at Publix flee the parking lot, another scenario popped into my head.  It was the warning of my friends and many websites: Don't fall prey to the Gypsies!
Lain Mckell photo on modern day gypsies Huffington Post

When we were in Paris, the Gypsies were the pick pockets, the fleecers, the ones that would take what is yours without sound or feeling.  They also have good tricks.  In an earlier blog I described the ring on the ground as the "catch" to get you distracted, interested and then ask you for money - all for the very valuable but too small gold ring.  It was a very good trick.

There was no trick at Publix.  There was no trick at Fresh Market.  And I don't know who these people are or where they went after they disappeared.  They are clearly not the Tallahassee homeless people that I have seen in the past.  Most of the time the men by the interstate have one sign on cardboard and it may say "help a vet" or "why lie, I want a beer."  Before I say anything  that is construed as stereo typing, I know that homeless people come in all varieties single, families and just unlucky.  I also have met two families that thought it was okay to sit in front of the Publix and ask for organic handouts.

I am not judging the decision or desperation or whatever puts people in this situation.  But I am looking at it differently.  The Gypsies and their tricks gave me a new perspective.  People who ask for things or beg are not all crazy.  They are not all destitute.  Though begging is not a life I would want, surely it could be a choice just as much as the life of tricks and petty theft.  For some people it may actually be a choice.  For me, I can tell you it would be a very desperate situation where I would prefer to stand outside holding a child in the freezing cold, when there is a Publix that could provide shelter 100 feet away.

I did not buy the chicken dinner for the three people.  I wanted to though.  I wanted to help, which is precisely what they wanted me to feel.  I am now more skeptical.  More leary.  I am not proud of this, but I am not proud of the people who were taking advantage of those feelings with a child on curb in a parking lot.

I don't feel indifferent, but I do feel like the trick may have made it to America.