Charity

I had fifty dollars burning a
hole in my wallet, and
an infinite list of wants.
During a common commute,
after a (relatively) long day,
I passed the panhandler.

My optimism wanted to believe in
that sign; that I could bring some
relief to a man who had served
our country
and paid a price with his
brace-enclosed leg.
It wanted to believe I could
help him and his wife, whose
existence he not only noted on the sign, but
underlined;
expending a little more of that precious
ink to show her importance.

My cynicism assumed this was all a ploy;
no guarantee that the money would help
this man in any other way than to
procure his next fix.
Even if this was just my
fanciful imagination, it told me that if
I helped this man and felt any sense of
self satisfaction, my charity would be
tainted with selfishness.

Maybe it was all a lie.
He wasn’t a veteran;
there was no wife.;
the leg brace was scavenged from
a back-alley dumpster and appropriated
for this part he was playing.
I was just another
middle-class mark
headed toward the
heated guarantee of home.

I had fifty dollars burning a
hole in my wallet, and
an infinite list of wants.
But in the chill of that
Minnesota cold, he looked
like he needed the warmth.

by Erik Shinker

8 thoughts on “Charity

  1. Lovely.

    I once offered a cigarette to a man on the street — his face lit up — until he saw that I smoked a very light brand of cigarette — and he declined my offer — telling me he was a chronic hash smoker and my brand of cigarette would do absolutely nothing for him. At that moment I learned that beggars could be choosers.

    Like

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