Monday, March 27, 2006

London Journal

In the fall of 1999, I studied law at University College London. "Studied" is a relative term. I did have some provocative classes and classmates, but the real value of the experience was just being there. I kept a journal. Here's an excerpt:

Monday, October 4, 1999

. . . anyway, I resolved last night not to walk by another homeless person here without giving at least some of what change I had.

When the test came, it spoke with an Irish accent. The woman on Gower Place showed me scars on her arms and the dirty face of her child. I gave her what I had on me, which couldn't have been any more than a pound. She pulled me closer and told me she needed to get home to Dublin - that she needed twenty pounds. Then I noticed people walking by and was somehow embarrassed that I was standing there talking to this poor woman. I wasn't embarrassed by the fact that I would be seen with her, but that they might take me for a fool. I didn't want to look like I was being taken by this woman.

Was she telling the truth? Who knows? Did I have twenty pounds? Not on me, but I could have had it in minutes. Did I give it to her? No. I said, "I'm sorry, I can't help you." I should have said, "I won't help you" because I could have. . . .

I guess if she were buying drugs or beer with the money, then I'd be telling the truth: I really couldn't help her then. But how do you know? Maybe that shouldn't be the question. Isn't it better to be taken by someone than to suspect everyone? . . . . When was the last time I've done something for someone else that involved any risk?

1 comment:

ERIC WELLS said...

I must say this is a common question.I wish I had a dollar for everytime someone walked up to me off the street and said"hey man Im trying to get back to Witchita Falls/Texas and I just need 5 bucks for gas" Well the first time I did my good deed for the day and helped someone out only later to be approached by the same person who had already forgotten my face and told me the same story again,this from someone that already had 5 bucks from me...anyway who knows when someone is telling the truth,I guess its how you feel inside at the time that counts.I myself find it hard to trust many people now a days so I kindly decline to hand money out to people on the street,but thats just me....thanks for your time.