Live in a city for too long and you can begin to forget.
You’ll forget what trees look like, or what true silence is. You’ll go about your day without noticing the shiny high rise buildings or the sweet scent of onions wafting from the closest hot dog stand. The blur of yellow taxi cabs and soft hum of the subway beneath your feet fade into the background. The city is in perpetual motion around you, and after a while you no longer notice its existence.
When I first moved to Boston I was in awe of most things. I loved the convenience of public transportation, the ability to have anything ordered, at any time of day and the endless number of restaurants to try. I loved being serenaded by street performers at every train stop and my heart broke for every homeless person I passed.
Unfortunately, I never give money to the homeless anymore…I have let them become just a part of my life’s backdrop. If I bring the thought of them to my conscious I know they are there, but amidst my daily life I no longer notice them. It’s not because I don’t care, in fact I really do, and make an effort to tell every person who asks me for spare change that I hope their luck changes. I no longer give money to the homeless because I have been scammed. Twice.
One of my very first weeks living in Boston a man dressed in scrubs accessorized with a hospital bracelet stepped onto my 5:17am train into the city. He told us all he a recovering drug addict just released from the hospital detox program and had an appointment with a nearby rehab, but was short the bus money to get there. I could see the pain in the man’s blood shot eyes, and my heart went out to this person who appeared to want to get their life together. I believed his story. In fact most of us on the train pulled out our wallets to supply the man with a few dollars for his quest to sobriety.
The very next week I saw him again. Still wearing scrubs and telling the same story. Obviously his success rate with the rehab scheme is high, as I have seen him at least a dozen times. Every time the story is exactly the same. After that incident I decided I would no longer give money to beggars. Musicians/performers/artists “working” for money are a different story and anyone who brings a smile to my daily commute usually gets a dollar or at least some change from me. Such as this man below. His beautiful voice and expert guitar skills brought the South Station train stop to life yesterday.
Yes, I decided no matter how desperate someone appeared on the street or how ferociously they shook their “spare change cup” in my face, I was not going to give them any money. Well, that was until I saw this woman.
I first passed this lady on Saturday afternoon on my way to the gym. 10 minutes later I still could not get the thought of her out of my head. Being a mother myself the thought of any woman attempting to bring a child into this world while living on the street was one I could not bear. I turned around and approached the lady.
Me: “Hi. Your sign says you are pregnant. Are you getting the medical help you need?”
Lady: “Yes, I go to the free clinic.”
Me: “If I give you money, will you promise me to use it to take care of yourself and that precious baby of yours?”
Lady: “Oh, yes, thank you.”
I have no idea if this lady is truly pregnant, or just like the man in the hospital scrubs was pulling a scam over on me. A huge part of me hopes she was lying, because the thought of a pregnant woman living on the streets makes my stomach turn. Being a mother is hands down the hardest, and yet most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life and that baby deserves a fighting chance. I hope she will take the money she collects and seek the help and resources available to her.
I will stop by her corner again someday to see how she is doing. I will not give her any money, but perhaps offer food and information on where to seek help.
I really hope she is not “homeless and pregnant”. I hope she is “homeless and a scam artist!”