My wife and I visited New York City a couple of days recently. We were walking through Times Square and masses of people on a Saturday night after a show when someone called out to us for money. “Will you please give me a couple of dollars I am hungry,” came the first plea. I barely heard this out of my right ear, as we were moving forward with the crowds. I hadn’t really noticed this guy as I was trying to watch where we were going, not trip on someone or the sidewalk while trying to enjoy the lights and sounds of Times Square. People begging for money have become a common sight in America. I see it in Cincinnati, Nashville, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland and well you get the picture…begging is everywhere in America to some extent. There is no American that can hand money to every beggar they pass on the street. My wife and I try on occasions to help people. We’ve seen mothers with their babies on the street begging. We’ve seen families on the street begging. We’ve seen Veterans on the street begging. We have passed people and then gone back with a few dollars if we had it to give.
Last Saturday night I was more attuned to walking with my wife and trying to enjoy a brief NYC visit. For some reason this beggar in NYC tuned in on me when I did not turn my head and look at him or respond. He moved toward me, got in my face and yelled at me, “You are a S.O.B. and I hope that you choke on your food tonight.” I looked at him for just a moment. He was a very angry man obviously from the Middle East. I don’t know if he was from Syria, Yemen or who knows but definitely Middle East. My wife and I moved forward. I wasn’t scared but it’s irritating to be accosted for money when someone is calling my mother the B word. I was happy that I had not given that man a penny.
I understand that people get desperate and hungry. I understand poverty is rampant in this nation. I understand people are victims of unfortunate circumstances. I do believe we should help people and I’ve tried throughout my life to always be involved in charitable projects. I don’t feel sorry for people who feel they are entitled to harass, accost and literally try to rob people. Thieves and robbers who break into people’s houses rationalize that they need stuff and however they can get it is justifiable in their minds.
What I am seeing more and more in America’s cities is what I’ve seen in Africa, Turkey and other foreign countries, which is harassment, begging and pleading. Our tour group was warned about leaving the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey back in 2005. Our guide told us the people would beg vehemently for anything you have. Do not even make eye contact with them we were told. Sure enough it was a mob who did everything but try to take our wallet and purses. They literally got in our faces and begged, pled and cried for anything we might give them. I’ve seen this same demeanor in other parts of the world. More and more of these people are coming to America and more of them will end up on our streets and prowling our neighborhoods. Taking a carefree, delightful stroll down Michigan Ave in Chicago, a leisurely walk through Times Square or most any major American city has changed. We’ve always had the poor and needy. However, we are now facing a different attitude and in reality a frightening mentality that does not mind getting in your face to get some of your money or whatever else they feel possessed to try to take.
Finally, everywhere I go in America people are working from every nationality around the world. From hotels, to restaurants, to taxi drivers to vendor people are working and I can’t understand anything they say. They do seem to work hard and seem to be happy to be in America. I am happy for these people if they are legal, but I do wish I could understand what they are saying.
If you run into a guy in Times Square calling you a S.O.B. and wishing for you to choke on your food please do what I did not have the presence of mind to do. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20. Tell him about all the Internationals working all over America. Tell him he can work a real job to. If he doesn’t want to do that to please do us all a favor and go back to where he came from.
Glenn Mollette is a syndicated columnist and author of eleven books.
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