[This draft is from last year, but it’s all fresh in mind as the panhandler population seems to surge again. My neighbors bicker about scammers looking to make easy cash and I am puzzled all over again. Who would do this on purpose? Not a criminal mastermind, surely.]

I was walking down Charles to get a cup of coffee around 2:30 on a Friday before Christmas. A hectically dressed man was fussing with his socks when he spotted me and lurched toward me asking, “Miss, spare some cash?”

I looked into his bleary eyes and said, “No, sorry, I don’t have anything spare.” He smacked me in the chest and stumbled away. “Bless you!” I said reflexively.

The smack wasn’t aggressive, but almost as if he was high-fiving me and missed. Was it some greeting I didn’t understand? Was he checking for a wallet, like I was an old timey man in a suit? Nonetheless, I was shocked and wandered into the wrong store for coffee before collecting myself and getting back on track. I scanned the street on the way back for my perp, but he was gone.

No security people were evident until I was nearly back at the office and they were slow walking and talking about weight lifting regimens. I didn’t see a point in interrupting that to tell them about my non event. At the same time I was aggravated that a stranger touched me. I haven’t given such things much thought, as I am generally not touch-averse, but yeah, I don’t like to be touched by a stranger, particularly in an era of pandemics.

My stock response for panhandlers evolves, and so far “Bless you,” is the best I’ve got. I honestly don’t have cash to spare. If I give some random outdoor neighbor my coffee money and I fall asleep on the drive home, I don’t think the net result is good for anyone.

If I interviewed him to find out what he really needs and spent the rest of my afternoon getting him a good meal and a dose of hope, I’d have to believe that I was leaving him in good hands, as his own hands didn’t seem any too steady. Why don’t we have a SWAT team for that?

So, yeah, my only response is to offer a blessing and try to provide some tiny help rather than do any harm. The week before, when a man asked me for spare cash in front of the grocery store, I thought about him while I shopped and then I gave him a snack when I left. “Bless you,” I said.

If I can’t do any better as a lone old lady, maybe we can do better as a society. We have 911 for fires and 311 for trash so why not 211 for stewing human crisis? Well, waddayaknow!! There is a 211 for help with food and shelter. Way to go, Baltimore.

Links found and suggested:

MCVET 410-576-9626 Every kind of assistance for homeless veterans and veterans who need other things.

Marian House 410-467-4121 Comprehensive help for women and mothers in crisis, including substance problems.

Baltimore City Shelter Hotline: 443-984-9540 9am-9pm M-F Oops no. Now it’s only 8:30-4:30 or something.

Hey, if you’re still reading, thank you for sticking around during my mental renovation. This contractor is so shady and the lintels are not up to specifications, but it’s coming along. Sunlight pours in at intervals and makes all the cobwebs less scary. We still don’t know where the wasps are coming from, but mysteries keep us on our toes. There may be asbestos. Can I keep this metaphor up forever? Why yes, I can.

Love,
yermom

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It would be comical if there’s a wasp nest in the “attic.” It’s entirely possible, after all this time of never looking up there I can’t know. Maybe it’s right on top of the “trap door.” Let’s continue to not find out!!

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