I was in the city this past weekend. Over the years, I have discovered various corners where homeless people always seem to migrate. Yesterday, when I drove by one corner in particular, I noticed one of “the regulars” holding up a sign. I usually don’t pay much attention to the signs, as I assume they are asking for money or food and I usually have enough occupying my attention with traffic and people walking and biking, etc. This time, however, I was stopped at a a red light and glanced over at a sign being held in my line of vision.
“I bet you can’t hit me with a quarter”, the sign read. I chuckled. And then I heard pinging noises as people in cars around me were throwing quarters at the gentleman holding the sign. He dodged about, trying to avoid being hit with a quarter. The whole thing was pretty funny and I found myself digging for some quarters before too long. I tossed a few out and missed and then the light turned green and people were beeping for me to get moving.
I drove a few more blocks and parked my car. There was a pizza shop nearby, so I went in and ordered a pizza and started walking back to where the man holding the sign was standing. Remember the post The Power of a Pizza ? I was on the same mission . . .to share a pizza and have a conversation. As I approached the man, I could see he was still dodging quarters being tossed by drivers who were stopped at the stop light. When I was close enough for him to hear me, I called out, “Would you like to share some pizza with me?” He eagerly accepted and we sat down on the curb together.
Upon glancing in the can where he was gathering the quarters being tossed at him, I noticed he had quite a collection for himself. “That’s quite a sign you’re holding there! It really gets people’s attention”, I said to him. He went on to tell me his story, mentioning he had once worked in advertising. He knew that he needed a different tactic to grab the attention of people driving by or he would “just be one of those guys begging for money out here.”
I think his idea was brilliant! Who doesn’t like a challenge? A chance to show off your skill and show everyone how well you can do something? I used his tactic one year at a Christmas party. I told the guests if they could fold a dollar bill (or any denomination they chose) in half seven times, I would let them keep the dollar. If not, the bill went in a bucket and the total amount collected at the end of the evening was sent off in support of a cause we all chose together. That organization received quite a donation that year! 🙂
As I was leaving, the gentleman thanked me for the pizza and the conversation. He looked pensive for a moment and then said, “I think I’ll have people aim for the pizza box instead of me. It takes a lot of energy dancing around all day.” We both laughed.
There are brilliant people out there in the world, being passed by because they “don’t look the part.” I have felt a pull toward helping the homeless for quite awhile now and this interaction gave me another push toward my goal of opening a cozy “B-n-B” for homeless people and my occupants are also my employees. They help me with the upkeep of the building while getting back on their feet and earning a degree towards their own dreams.