Somehow I always forget that visiting big tourist-frequented cities means encountering and interacting with the people of the street. It’s just not on my mind as we plan our days before heading into town. Then we arrive where we’re going and I’m immediately reminded.
It’s easy to dismiss these folks, assume they’re all drunks or junkies, walk by them like they’re ghosts with a forced lack of eye-contact, employing a firm “don’t engage” policy. I guess that’s honestly what I do most, but sometimes I can’t help myself. These are people, humans. Maybe they’re not taking care of themselves in the best ways at the moment, or maybe they’re living precisely how they intend to, but regardless I sometimes find it hard to completely disregard them as my brothers or sisters.
So I engaged. Gave a particularly broken looking young man “a dollar for coffee.” Told him, “Good luck, bruh,” and walked on with my family. Slumped, he looked to almost be relying on the French Quarter wall he was leaning against as an outside source of physical stability. Face covered in tattoos, hair dreaded rather nastily. Cue lectures about enabling and toxic chairty and blindly giving money; I know, I know.
Later that afternoon we saw that very same young man being hauled away in an ambulance, unmoved from the spot on the sidewalk where I’d earlier offered my “charity.” The shopkeeper was hosing down the area where he’d lain in repose so I can only imagine what may have happened. Did my dollar help pop this kid’s last balloon? Dunno.
I do know, though, that we could do better talking to the kids about classism and racism and homelessness and addiction and mental health the social aspects of it all.
Know better do better, right?