You’ve probably heard of these so-called crowd-funding sites like Go Fund Me and Hope Mob. I don’t know when these new crops of fundraising platforms originated but the cynic in me says, “Prove it.” I guess that method beats standing on the side of the road asking for money. A weird thing happened these past few days. I say it’s weird only because I find it odd that I saw two different instances where people were holding signs asking for money. Not downtown but in suburbia.
The first couple was pulled over to the side of a road in a residential area during a weekday when mostly moms are out doing what they do. The couple was standing side-by-side behind their caramel colored truck looking towards the oncoming traffic. The stone-faced grey haired woman had the shameful task of holding the handmade sign asking for help. A sign with lettering so small that I could barely read it until I’d passed by them. What struck me first when I saw them was the level of degradation they must feel, particularly the woman holding the sign. The traditionalist in me also blamed the deadbeat man, assuming they’re a couple, for not doing enough to provide. My second thought was: Is their need legitimate?
A few minutes later the woman disappeared into the store when the Wal-Mart manager told her to leave. What happened next was sickening. We recognized the same boy getting into a car with a man wearing a Muslim cap. Presumably a couple since the man was also wearing religious clothing. (Side note: This isn’t about stereotyping. I merely point out their clothing to prove their connection.) The man drove towards the exit of the parking lot. I was leaving at the same time and pulled up behind the car. I could see through the back windows that the man was on his cell phone. Presumably communicating with the woman who’d been his accomplice.
My stomach sank with that feeling when generosity is abused. I knew we’d been duped. What kind of man has money for a cell phone bill while his wife begs for money? And what kind of people use religion in a scam? Never mind. Don’t answer. Worse, I’d fallen for the poor woman and child bit. I followed the car for a few minutes, making a right out of the parking lot and then a U-turn. I pulled up to the car at the traffic light. I wanted to follow them more. My son said, “No!” while my daughter egged me on. The one who hadn’t wanted to give up her money. I had to listen to my gut telling me to set a good example and not follow a stranger, at night, in a car, to who knows where. The car sped away and I drove towards home feeling taken advantage of and disgusted. The next night I went back to that same Wal-Mart hoping to find that woman. Better yet, get my kids’ money back. The entryway was empty. And so was my soft spot. Never again.