Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Live in Hope

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
-Oscar Wilde

I was approached this afternoon by a young man who vaulted off a bus, a question blazing on his face. The question was for me, as presumably I bore the look of somebody who knows the innards of the bus and train service schedule.
"Excuse me- I need to get back to Boston."
There was a perceptible degree of stress in the blunt statement. For the sake of convenience and clarity I added the question mark myself and pointed in the direction of the enormous building that loomed behind us.
"You should probably take a train," I offered sagely, disguising, I hoped, the fact that my vast knowledge was recently acquired.
"Go through that building to the train station. There's an information desk where they sell tickets, and the gate to the trains is on the right. I'm sure the lady at the counter would tell you the best way to get to Boston."
It was all very well and good, or so I hoped, but after he thanked me graciously he added a note of potential significance.
"I have no money. Will they give me a pass, do you think?"
It was not my position to deny or grant the would-be traveller a passage to Boston. The fellow was rather well dressed, spoke decently and appeared reasonable enough so as not to alarm me but his revelation slapped me into a momentary lapse of coherent thought. My answer arrived not swiftly but on the fringe of a graceless stutter.
"I don't know. But you could ask them."
He thanked me again, and jogged toward the station building with a confident bounce.
That was several hours ago, and I continue to envision one of two possible scenarios unfolding in the meantime. Either he has been forced to set up camp in the station, is stranded in misery and has through sheer boredom and penniless desperation read the schedules so often he now can recite them by heart; or his optimism has been fruitful, the world is a better place than I imagined, and he reached home before I fashioned his story into words.


Pauline said...

One can always hope...

Pappy said...

Your advice was sage. I have helped a number of people throughout the years who seemed down on their luck. I was approached this evening about six by a healthy looking bearded fellow much younger than I as I walked downtown with Bebe. He told me he had missed the feeding hours at the Mission and was in need of a handout. I was struck by the thought of how lazy you have to be to have no job, and yet not be able to get up off your duff and make it to the feed line on time. I think we have way too many healthy folk who would rather live off others than lift a finger to help themselves. I am getting harder to convince. Pappy

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pauline, yes, hope is good :) You never know, it might have worked for him.

Texican, it's so hard to tell when somebody is deserving of help and when they're just being lazy, and so hard to make that decision without feeling like a cruel person. But, you're right, sometimes it's plain laziness that propels a person to ask for help because he couldn't be bothered to do what needed to be done. We can't know everyone's story but we should use our judgement each time to weigh up what's right and wrong. Otherwise we'd either end up helping everyone or helping nobody at all.

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