An Open Letter to the Panhandler on Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine
I suppose I should have addressed this letter to more than just one person, since I see a plethora of you on the median strips not just on Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine, but on various other streets and locations, as well.
It's not lost on me how lucky I am every single day. I'm fortunate enough to be employed and be compensated enough to have a roof over my head and food in my and my dog's stomach. And I'm reminded every single morning just how lucky I am when I hop off 295 and pull up to the intersection of Forest Ave and Marginal Way.
Because, at any given time, there's always at least one of you panhandling, usually with a sign containing either a plea for help, a positive message, or both. And unfortunately, as much as I'd love to help contribute to your next meal, it's just impossible to afford to every single time I pull up to that intersection.
Today -- today was different, though. And that's why I'm really hoping you didn't see the move I made while I was sitting in my truck at the red light of that intersection with you standing almost directly next to my passenger side window.
As I was pulling up to the red light and slowing down, you reached a hand up in the air and gave a quick, friendly wave. And as I smiled and waved back, I realized that today was one of the days that I was going to help.
Unsure of exactly how much cash I had in my wallet -- and this is the part that I'm hoping you didn't see any of -- I slyly reached toward my wallet and opened it underneath the steering wheel, trying to keep my eyes on the road so I didn't miss a light change, but also not being obvious that I was fishing for cash.
As I felt my fingers grip what I thought was the last bill I had on me, I slowly began pulling it out of my wallet, remaining as sly as possible, while turning my head down toward it, finally ready to make it obvious I was going to help you get a dollar closer to your next meal.
And that's when I realized that what I was holding wasn't actually any kind of cash at all, but rather, a tattered old AAA bail bond that I've carried in my wallet for who knows how long because my Mom gave it to me one day and said, "Just in case."
And while that's a bit of a funny story, I'm hoping you didn't see any of that unfold. Because I can't imagine seeing someone looking like they were about to help you out at your most vulnerable moment, only to have them immediately retreat their wallet back to where it came from in a "LOL JUST KIDDING" vibe -- accidental or not.
I'm just hoping the selfless woman who pulled up next to me and gave you some money was enough to distract you from seeing everything going on in my truck, and now I know to be better prepared and more cognizant of what cash I have on me for next time.
That said, if you ever get arrested, at least you know a guy with a slip of paper that can help spring you from the joint?