In Houston, Texas, on a hot July afternoon, I pulled up to a light on Westheimer, a three or four lane street. I was in the left turning lane, next to a small island. A woman on the island came up to my window; she was in an invalid’s walker/semi-wheel-chair and help up a sign saying something about may I be blessed this day.
I usually have some dollar bills in a compartment in the driver’s armrest, but my car had just spent a week being repaired and I may have emptied the compartment first, or maybe someone else did. I couldn’t find anything. Since she had waited while I searched, I wanted to give her something. I reached in my bag while knowing that I had just been to an atm and all I’d find were $20 bills. So I gave her one.
She reacted roughly the way one would react finding one had just won a significant grant. Much shouting, hand-waving, feet-kicking, etc. It seemed actually joyous, and I was very surprised. My first thought was that I had to do more.
Since then I have wondered what more I could do. I think it is unlikely that I could find her again, since people asking for money in the streets outside the center of Houston don’t seem to have turf they claim. In fact, some are driven to changing locations, and almost no one strolls around in the 8000 block of Westheimer in July. And even if I could, I doubt I’d be able to help much for various reasons.
So I thought about what a good thing it is that our Mayor has cut the homeless rate by about 50% in her two years in office. Giving to charities who help our street people seems more imperative somehow.