South Beach and Miami in general has a ton of homeless people. Some of them are war vets, some drug addicts or alcoholics, and some are literally flat out crazy. I often wonder how one gets to this point and then I feel so blessed to not have gotten anywhere near that point. I don’t typically give homeless folks money, simply because I know it isn’t going to go to good use, but I never hesitate to buy anyone that’s hungry some food, providing I have the capability.
(I know I jump around a lot and I’m working to make that better.)
A couple of days ago, when driving home from work, I broke my personal rule about not handing out money. On the corner of NW 12th and the off ramp, there’s a traffic light. And with that traffic light, comes a variety of homeless men (and on occasion a woman) with their signs asking for money. Typically, I keep my windows up on that corner, because, let’s face it, I’m not a big girl and someone who’s strung out has the capability to possess super-human strength. This day, I had my window open and some cash on me (which I also don’t usually do since I have a tendency to lose money) and there was a gentleman coming towards my car. His sign wasn’t anything out of the ordinary: Homeless, hungry, veteran, please help. But what got me is “Freedom isn’t free”. With so much going on in the world, that really struck me. That’s not what got me reaching in my purse though.
Quite often, I see homeless people that I just don’t believe are homeless. I think they’re scam artists. I don’t say that to be mean and I understand that there are shelters where people can get clean and get clean clothes, but sometimes, they’re just dressed a little too well with sneakers that are too nice. Not this man though. He wasn’t overly dirty or overly clean, but he was genuine, that much I felt. He also had his veteran badge on from the VA hospital and it had his picture, so I know at least that part was the real deal.
As he came by the car, he almost didn’t make eye contact with me, as if he was thinking that I was just another young person that didn’t care, but I surprised him. I got him over to the car and gave him a 5, it was all I had, but more importantly, I thanked him for serving our country. I think he wanted to hug me, not for the money, but for the thanks, and if it were in a different situation, maybe I would have, but the light turned, and it’s Miami, and if you don’t move your car within a half second of the light turning, you might get killed.
I kept on with my drive home and I felt good. Good that my little bit might help, good that my words were probably more valuable to that man than my money, and good that my little part of the world is safe and sound with a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and love in my heart.