Sunday morning NYC thoughts

On the train home last night the doors opened, in stepped a familiar guy and did his whole spiel: “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, you may have seen me before, I just came home from prison a little while ago. I’m asking for your help to have something to eat and to stay out of trouble because I’m desperate to do something stupid again. I don’t want to look or smell homeless, that’s why I’m bothering you. I do have a felony, so it’s hard for me to find work but if you know someone who would hire me, I’d do any work. If anyone could spare some food, a dollar, dime, nickel or even a penny I would greatly appreciate that. If not, thank you for listening, sorry for interrupting and have a great night.”

I indeed have seen and given that guy a dollar before, he is very persuasive. It must not be easy to ask for help, but then again he made about $7 in 2 minutes. Do not misunderstand me, I don’t wanna trade places with him, I’m sure his struggle is real and I feel compassion for that man. But I also have to be in the office a lot longer than 2 minutes to make $7, so I sometimes wonder what would happen if I stood up on the train and started saying “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I used to be a professional basketball player but broke my leg and am lucky to walk again. I’m back in school to build up a new life. My last team still owes me money and I’m struggling to  pay my tuition. I am desperate to start working as a stripper to make ends meet but it’s less embarrassing to stand here and ask you for help. I hope you can find it in your heart to help me with a small donation so that I can stay in school… etc.”

Would anyone give me money? Or would everyone just laugh and think “b*tch please, I have my own bills and loans to pay off” Is it worth a social experiment? Not trying to be funny here, just honestly wondering what makes people reach into their pocket and what makes them stare past a person as if they don’t exist. Why do they give the guy with the felony a dollar but look away when a guy with no legs shuffles through the train on his hands? What stirs up people’s compassion? How dirty and smelly does a homeless person have to be so that we don’t consider him or her a human being anymore and therefore act as if they don’t exist. Can a person’s appearance be so bad that we’re embarrassed by looking at them? Is there a point system in our head? Do we give people points for their story, for how well they articulate? Where is the border between being annoyed by someone and being genuinely interested in someone’s story? Maybe one of these days I grow the cojones to give the social experiment a shot and can find answers to some of these questions. I’ll let you know how it went…

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3 Responses to Sunday morning NYC thoughts

  1. Fernando says:

    Great topic to think about… I felt very moved.. I have always thought about that but never commented it in an open way as I am doing now.. in Mexico a lot of people ask money and tell many stories specially in the subway: people who went out from jail, who is unemployed, who is sick and need medicines… .moms with babies that need to feed them… people who had an accident and is handicapped… old people without money and has no one to care for him.. young people who were in drugs and reformed… even some do a painful act to ask money as to open a blanket full of broken glasses, take out their shirts, then grab from the subway pole to turn around and throw themselves backwards into the glasses and show you their blood and scars…… I always ask myself if their speech is real and I should help them or not… and how I decide who to help but certainly I do not have a point system that is logic….(even once I give money to a guy but not because his speech was moving but because it looked very threatening and I thought that if I do not give him money he will rob me) …. anyway strangely when I help someone instead of feeling good I felt guilty that if I helped one person I must help every other people the same day to be fair (maybe I helped they guy who was lying instead of the one who was really in need)…. If you do the social experiment it would be very interesting and maybe find a surprise..

  2. thisboysmind says:

    “Beggars should be entirely abolished! Truly, it is annoying to give to them and annoying not to give to them”
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    Or as another one of my favorite philosophers once said:
    “This is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s.”

    A very interesting question and one I might have to steal for my blog when I get it rolling.

    The short answer IMHO is that there is logic and rationality behind the decisions we make even in this case and maybe even a mathematical formula that would win me an Ig Noble prize!

    Unfortunately it’s not a short answer and will require some thinking and writing so in the meantime i’ll leave you with this very appropriate clip.

  3. vp19 says:

    As someone who used to live in metro NY and did my share of subway-riding, I know of what you speak. (There was also an offshoot, the person who handed out cards with sign language in exchange for donations.) I would donate my occasional loose change if said person seemed on the level and wasn’t annoying.

    Imagining you doing something like that…well, just about everyone would believe you are a former basketball player (passing yourself off as a gymnast or figure skater, with that high center of gravity, might strain credulity!). You also have an inherent intimidation factor just from your sheer tallness. Just be thankful you don’t need to panhandle (or become a stripper, either!).

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