Thursday, July 26, 2012

Truth or Lies at dusk on an urban corner

I didn't see her coming.

We were standing outside a crowded restaurant in downtown Philadelphia waiting to get in for dinner.

Out of nowhere the woman appeared, almost like she "materialized" before our eyes.

"Sir, I need fare back to New Jersey," she began an all too familiar pitch to me.

"How much is that?" I asked, not making much effort to cover my frustration--come on, it's my vacation!

"Fourteen dollars for bus and train," she spoke clearly with confidence mixed with z frustration much more deeply seated than mine.

The woman was dressed with care, a poor lady at the end of her disappointing day and her rope most likely.

"I was a fool, sir. I came over here to meet my ex and he just put me out of the car on this street and I can't get home without some help," she went on.

By now we'd attracted a crowd, all listening attentively. I motioned her aside and moved closer so we could hear without raising our voices.

After getting a few more details of her story and her need, I challenged her.

"You need to know that I work with folks in trouble and on the streets in Dallas," I informed her. "I don't think your story adds up. I think you may be lying to me," I pushed her hard.

She never wavered.

"Sir, I have told you the truth," she assured me, looking right into my eyes.

"I don't have the ability to know that, but you do," I replied. I handed her $20 and pressed again that she knew what was true.

"I would rather give you what you say you need not knowing if you're telling me the truth than to refuse your request and chance it that you might just be sharing exactly what happened to you," I explained.

She assured me again that she was speaking the truth.

"One last question," I said as we prepared to part.

"OK," she said.

"Why did you pick us to talk to out of all these folks?" I asked.

"I don't really know," she answered. "Maybe it was God."

She turned and headed toward the subway entrance into the rest of her night.

Do you believe in angels, heavenly guests?


Anonymous said...

Larry, I think you have raised a very important issue, and I am not talking about angels. After being conned more times than I can remember, I know I have a tendency to be skeptical. I also know that if I give money to a con-artist that means less for people really in need. I have often helped people that I didn't have a clue if they were for real. Do you have any advice for the average person who wants to help people, but also wants you use some measure of discernment?

cindy said...

Anonymous, I am not Larry, but would like to answer your question from my experience. I have found that if you offer to provide what the person has said they need the money for - food, gas, bus ticket, diapers, whatever - then they will be exposed if they are lying. If they do accept your offer, then it does require more time and effort on your part than just handing them cash. You can also carry things such as city bus passes, fast food gift cards, bags with imperishable food, etc. to give in place of cash. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

... and a bell rang, and an angel got his/her wings