“Got ana change?”
“How bout a cigarette?
“I don’t smoke.”
I’ve counted seventeen people panhandling in a twelve block radius, in all colors, shapes and sizes.
There’s the heavyset black girl with a huge sign reading: PLEASE HELP…HAVEN’T EAT’IN IN A WEEK…kind of hard to believe when you consider her size.
A few feet from her sits a young Latino teen, his head in his hands, clasping a cup wrapped in rosary beads.
We then have the guy with his own portable easy chair he moves from corner to corner, a popcorn bucket at his feet like he was home watching the game.
A mother and three kids perch on the ground at 86th and Lexington, the eldest eight, youngest two. Their collective woe inspires me to ask…did you eat today? Mom says, no…the four year-old, forgetting his role says…twice, his mother squeezing his arm in disapproval. Hey he’s four, he hasn’t honed the skill of begging as yet.
It’s hard to know when you’re being hustled..hard to sort the true needy from the scammers.
I’ve been told many of them have sponsors who park them near the subway, collecting them and their profits at sundown in exchange for a cot and a lousy meal.
But the ones who I never question are those with pets, who loyally sit beside their masters happy, to just not to have been left behind.
Some insist it’s a ruse to get a softie like me, others say it’s admirable, as low as they’ve dropped they didn’t abandon their animals, me going with the latter.
I’ve bought dog food and leashes, cat treats and collars, litter, meds and blankets.
The ASPCA said, homeless people take better care of their pets than many who have maximum means.
When I saw a young man holding a pit mix in his arms like a baby, kissing his head, I couldn’t help myself.
“Did you two eat today?”
“Yes ma’am, we did. But thank you, appreciate you asking.”
See, there’s dignity, even on a street corner wrapped in a bath towel, a tattoo of Mary gracing an arm, with holes in their hearts, sweaters and shoes.