Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who is he?

(photo credit: Google images)

A man stood at the bottom of the stairs in the college building, asking each person who walked down from the second floor, "Can you help me?" or "Can you give me a dollar?"

His mouth was half toothless. His teeth were pointy. They were rugged like mountains.
His teeth were a pale yellow.

His clothes were decent. He didn't have any holes in them. He was covered from head to toe, in the Michigan winter chill.

I told myself, "Keep walking. Pretend like you're busy so he won't bother you." But he did.
He repeated one of his questions, "Can you help me?"
"I'm sorry," I said, without giving an explanation.
He had dried patches of fluid near his eyes.

At 5'9 ft, he wore a hat, a beige jacket, and long pants. He held a brown paper bag.

I walked to the study lounge where my sister studied on a 5-by-10 foot table.

I told her what had just happened.

He showed up at the lounge. Walking past our table, I could feel his eyes darting towards me.

My sister tried to convince me not to feel bad for not helping him.
"Oh, he's not homeless. He is dressed well, doesn't have anything broken on him, and he doesn't look hungry," she said.

"You can tell he's not homeless," my sister repeated.

"I have to go to class," I told my sister.

"If you still feel like you have to help him...," she shrugged.

I walked over to a vending machine before returning to class. Just as I was about to insert a dollar bill into the machine, I saw him again.

"Can you help me please?" he said, as he slightly leaned in towards me. He was next to my face.
"What do you want the money for?" I said, demanding for a good answer.

He stammered. He stumbled over words.

My eyes bore into him.

"I want to get some McDonald's," he said.

He repeated it.

"Okay." I said, handing him the dollar bill.
I stormed off to class. I could hear his voice trailing down the stairs.

"Can you help me? I want to get some McDonald's," he said to someone else.



Constructive Attitude said...

how many times have we heard this and how many times have we "believed" them and "not believed" them.

Sometimes walking on campus is like being in a third world campus,every corner has someone begging for money.

And how many people can you possibly help.

Really well written post. Good job :) I felt like I was there.

Artistic Logic said...

amazing Journalist, this was so capturing and I've felt that many times passing by them

Rabia said...

I always feel a sense of despair when I am in Detroit and the surrounding cities. Living in East Lansing, I am not accustomed to seeing homeless people as often. I agree with what you wrote. Sometimes it is hard to determine who really needs help and who doesn't.

Congratulations on writing a wonderful post!

provoking invoking said...

in islam, you shouldn't even ask why they need the money. just give. here is the proofs:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) said, "A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next morning the people said that he had given his object of charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again." And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. Next morning the people said that he had given his alms to an adulteress last night. The man said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I gave my alms) to an adulteress. I will give alms again." So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I had given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man." Then someone came and said to him, "The alms which you gave to the thief, might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah's cause." (Sahih Bukhari; Volume 2, Book 24, Number 502)

Malik related to me from Zayd ibn Aslam that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Give to a beggar even if he comes on a horse." (Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik- 58.1.3)

"Therefore, the beggar drive not away" (Qur'an, Surah Duha: 10)

"Give something (even if it is very little) to the beggar or send him away with nice words; because he may be an angel who visits you to see how you use the blessings and bounties that Allah granted you."(Qurtubi)

it is true that a beggar should not beg in Islam if he can find other means, or is misrepresenting then he sinned. but that burden falls on the beggar, not the giver. rather than wasting time trying to figure out who will spend their money honestly and who will not, you've wasted time you could've spent just doing a good deed. the thing is-- if the one asking turns out to be NOT lying, and you have extra money or food that Allah favored you with, then you've committed a sin. if he lied, u are safe but u've taken that chance for no reason when Allah commands to spend of the wealth He's given you on the needy, the beggar, and the orphans.

may God reward you for giving! don't regret it, just remember if they lied it falls on them and you've fulfilled their rights

provoking invoking said...

also- the criteria for being poor isn't just being "homeless". some people might have a home, but no food. some people have clothes but no home. etc. it's better instead of sternly asking "what do you want money for?" to say "God bless you" or "God be with you" and if it still bothers you in your mind, just buy them food if they say they are hungry, instead of giving them the money.

Viva La Fashion said...

omg. this is so random but i saw a guy just like that guy in the picture when me and my family were driving around seattle.

somebody out there said...

Although I can see your point, the narrations show the man who donated money did not know who the people were when he gave his money away.

It's okay to help others, but it's not okay to beg.

I wouldn't have asked what he needed the money for, if he wasn't carrying around a brown paper bag and following me around (I saw him four times) and others.

The way he approached me was creepy. I needed to clear my conscious.

Thanks for your comments!

Youthful Wisdom said...

Whenever I saw people with that sign like in the picture I get super annoyed and drive away. It might be mean but I'm sorry my money is not for your alcoholic desires. I would have bought food at the vending machine with that dollar and given that to the guy.

Mark said...

I wrote a similar post this morning. It is interesting how we react to someone like you described and the thoughts that go through our mind and the judgments we make or do not make. In this situation I simply listen to my inner voice and I give without expectation of what one might use the money for. The person begging for money is also on a journey though it may be quite different than our own. Sometimes we may be amazed to find out later what that one moment of kindness and giving did.

EmptyWords said...

I completely agree with Mark. I couldnt have said it better... I usually give the money and then look them in the eye and stay sternly, 'I know you'll use this wisely'... and they usually look at me back a little shocked to hear that.

supreem said...

this happens to me all the time. at some point i decided, that once a day, if it happens i give the money away, but more than once, than i'll literally have no money for parking and what not. I mean, we're not God, so it's not our responsibility to judge what they're going to use it on, unless they're CLEARLY holding a 'hello i am drinking alcohol with this money' sign. I've gone and bought food with people before, if they told me they're hungry, rather than just give money. But yeah, it's sad that we currently live in the most "powerful country", and people still struggle to get food.