Earlier today, I was driving to Target and sitting in the middle of a really busy street in Philadelphia (basically the kind of street where people will run you down as soon as look at you, so watch out), and I saw a girl standing on the median.

She was holding a sign that said, “Please Help. A Buck or two, Prayers or Good Will.” What caught my eye about her was she was in her late teens (maybe early 20s), and she was relatively clean. She had a few bags with her, and they were in decent shape. She didn’t look like someone who belonged on the street. I figured she must be a runaway. As I went by, she sat down on the curb and started sobbing.

Since it’s a busy street, and most people in any metropolitan area will throw a hissy fit if you stop your car in the middle of traffic, I didn’t stop. At first, I was really annoyed that she chose that spot to panhandle. Why stand where people barely even have the time to read your sign as they go by?

Then my next impulse was to stop and tell her to go home, whatever the problem is, just go home, but of course, I knew that if she felt she could go home, she would.

I drove on, and thought, “Well, I can offer her a lift. Maybe I could take her to a bus station or shelter or wherever.” Of course, then the thought that she might have a weapon on her occurred to me. Then I said to myself, “Oh come on, you know karate, and you’re afraid of a little girl? (granted, this ‘little girl’ probably had 30-40 pounds on me, but that’s a mere detail)” So, I turned my car around and went back, swearing at myself the whole way.

I need to do laundry. This morning, when I got dressed, due to lack of options, I ended up dressed like a beer commercial. I was only going to Target and I don’t care about giving the stock boys a thrill. This would have been fine if I only went to Target, as planned.

Instead, I chose the wrong part of Philadelphia to park my car at a gas station and get out, while dressed like a beer commercial. Traffic came to a halt and tongues rolled out everywhere. Again, it’s a good thing I know karate or I might’ve cared beyond, “Oh, oops!”

These two God-Knows-What’s standing on the corner couldn’t have ogled any harder, but kept their distance as I crossed the street. They watched me talk to the girl, hug her and give her all my cash. I offered her a lift to a shelter, which she refused, saying that the shelter won’t let her and her boyfriend stay together, so they’ve been sleeping in the park (Philadelphia has the largest urban park system).

All I have to say is, if you choose sleeping in the woods over temporarily being separated from your boyfriend, he must be one hell of a guy.

She gave me more of her sob story. I gave her my phone number and told her to call if she needs a ride anywhere, “like the bus station” (because Philadelphia isn’t really the best place to be homeless, if you ask me) but I really wanted to say, “in case you come to your senses and go to a shelter.”

She sobbed a lot, but there were no tears. I decided that I didn’t care if she was lying. The $30 is worth the risk of a lie, in case she’s telling the truth.

On my way back across the street, the two God-Knows-What’s kept their heads down, looking ashamed of themselves.

I guess she kind of reminded me of the kinds of people my dad used to befriend when he as a drug-addict. People who are stupid and down on their luck.

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Monday, May. 28, 2007 at 5:19 PM