How do I say no? When you look at me with those vacant yet ‘heart hungry’ eyes.
Can you begin to imagine that I, like you, also struggle? Definitely nowhere near as much as you, but I do.
Do I have the right to tell you that I am a ‘struggling student’ or ‘nine to five’ worker who has only a few hundred to spend on fuel and a few groceries, literally hanging on by the skin of my teeth until pay day? When all you want from me is a little small change to add to your pile of coins for a loaf of bread, the one meal you were able to scrape up for today.
How easy it is to ‘wall up’ and say, 'I don’t have anything' when in fact almost guiltily my wallet sits at the bottom of my handbag filled with money having sadly already been allocated strictly for that month’s running expenses.
These are some of the thoughts that cross my mind as I see you at the corner of the street. Your rail thin body is dressed in only a few rags, yet curiously your eyes spark with a kind of light. It must be the essence of your fighting spirit, a will to survive that shines brightly despite your drab surrounds. Even when I’m out of the spare change that I usually give you as I pass by, or that stack of odd sandwiches that I pass your way has run a bit dry, I still care.
Do you know that it doesn’t sit easily in my mind when I pass you in traffic, thinking of the opportunities that I have earned because I’ve had a leg up, having good luck in the lottery of life being born into circumstances of relative ease. Who would YOU have been today, if you had been given at least some opportunity? Would that defiant light in your eyes have translated into a spring in your step, a blazing passion for art or numbers? Would you have oozed confidence, conquered boardrooms, traveled places or even just had a regular family complete with picket fence, 2.5 kids plus family pet instead of haunting the corners of the street?
Does compassion make a difference? To know that somehow among the messy threads of humanity I still do care. Even at that critical moment where I’m unable to spare anything, after our awkward exchange, my refusal, your persistence and your bitter mutterings as you walk away, I still care. Do you know that I stare wistfully and helplessly at your retreating pride-stiffened back? I wish with all my might that I can still cause a revolution that would change your circumstances as I drive away.