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Perspective: What Not To Say To The Homeless

Marnie O. Mamminga

We heard him before we saw him.

“I may be ugly, but I still need help!”  the homeless man shouted good naturedly as he waved his paper  cup in front of the crowd crossing Michigan Ave.

My six-year-old granddaughter and I were on the street corner headed to the Art Institute for her first visit to the Thorne Miniature Rooms.

As we crossed the street, he repeated his self-deprecating plea: “I may be ugly, but I still need help!”

Suddenly, a handsome, well-dressed man in front of me yelled out in a big booming voice, “It’s the Trump economy!! Get a job!!”

“What?” mumbled the homeless man, his pleasant demeanor instantly gone.

“Get a job!!”  The Bully yelled again.

A shouting match of angry F-words between both men ensued as I gripped my granddaughter’s hand and quickly steered her toward the Art Institute entrance.

Laughing loudly, The Bully turned around on the steps to see who had heard him, smiling as though he expected the crowd to applaud.

No one did.

Shocked, I was tempted to give him piece of my mind, but because it was an inflammatory situation, I held my tongue.

And so I say these words now:

There are many ways to help the homeless, but shaming is not one of them. 

Whether you choose to give money to them on the street or not, the least we can all do is to offer words of kindness, hope, and encouragement; simple gifts that can be given often and freely.

But what I wanted most to say to The Bully were the lyrics to this old song: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Let us sing it together.

I'm Marnie O. Mamminga and that's my perspective.

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