by Robert Rios
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home.”
This old song has never lost its touch. That one line alone speaks on so many levels; my mind always pictures the faces walking through the deserted streets of Times Square at 3 a.m. when all the tourists are tucked safely in their hotel beds, hopefully without the bedbugs biting.
Like many New Yorkers, I’ve become accustomed to seeing the varying degrees of poverty. I’ve never been financially rich, but have always had a roof over my head and food in my stomach, even when all I could afford was a pack of Ramen Noodles. While we continue to focus on our own plights, become jaded to economic suffering, and hope we never experience it firsthand, one has to ask: where does one draw the line?
Last month, I was on the subway when a 16-year-old boy steps on, dressed in Hollister Pants, fresh Nikes, and an H&M bag, begging for money, stating he just got kicked out of his house. Two women sitting across from me look at him with shame and disgust, telling him he’s too young and well dressed to be panhandling. Minutes later, another more convincing homeless man comes aboard and begins to sing. Those same women and passengers who shamed the teenager reached into their pockets and gave this ragged-clothed man some money. Maybe if the kid did a little dance or sang a song, people would’ve spared some coin as they do for the entertainers and candy sellers. What was the difference?
Like many NY natives, I choose charity wisely; we can discern who is more deserving of our hard-earned change. What happens, however, when that decision comes to your front door? Not two weeks after that first experience, I was sitting home when my doorbell rings. Catching me off guard, there stood una Doña who began to tell me how she needed to feed her grandkids. Normally such an intrusive display would make me slam my door. But a neighbor had just come off the elevator, overheard her, dug into his pocket, and gave her some change. It was then that I felt obligated to do the same and give her a dollar.
Then I thought, “Are things really THAT bad?” The short answer: Yes, for some people, it is always that bad. But we continue on, living our lives, working hard for every cent we can get, showing a little kindness here and there.
While every person that finds themselves without a home can’t always be as lucky as “The Golden Voice” Ted Williams, he is sublime proof that a little kindness and attention can go a long way to bridge that road back to redemption. There will always be someone who could use your help; just use your judgment and do what you can at the time.
If you would like more information on Being Latino’s efforts to help the homeless community, please visit our Facebook page.
Robert Rios, Contributor
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.