No Spare Change
This past week I was on the train and two little Black girls – one no older than 10 and the other no older 8 – walked through the train with very neat crayon drawings offering to sell them to people on the train.
Now I have no need for the drawing of a 10 year old but I couldn’t just let them walk by. I glanced through the train looking for the parent who had skillfully blended with the other passengers on the train. Unable to figure out who was with them I gave the youngest girl the money I could spare. She did not offer me a drawing but silently rolled up the money and pushed it down into her jacket pocket.
But this is a disturbing trend that I have noticed on the subway recently – very young Black children selling snacks or now homemade drawings on the subway. Sometimes they are alone and sometimes they are in groups of two or three.
I just wonder how in need the family must be to send their youngest children into the subway to try to get money for food, shelter, or life’s other needs. And what does it say of us when we ignore children in need?
On a separate occasion a young Black boy got onto my subway car selling candy to raise money for his basketball team. I did not give. Honestly I was a bit fatigued. There’s no way I have enough money to give to every child on the subway who asks. The need is great and sometimes I find myself thinking – it’s a kid someone will give something.
But in this instance the boy walked through the entire train and just one woman gave him anything. She watched him walk through the length of the car and not receive anything. She gave him what she could spare and he left to move onto the next car.
Once he was gone she got up and yelled at everyone on the train. We were all pieces of shit acting as if we’d never been on hard times and ignoring the needs of the young boy. A man sitting next to her tried to reason with her and calm her down as she cursed out everyone on the train (but Black riders in particular) and eventually she settled down.
It’s just the thing about homelessness and poverty in this country is that it hardens the people who are doing well. We pass by the person in the wheelchair. We completely ignore people who are clearly sick and suffering. And now we turn away from children hoping not to make eye contact so we can avoid saying no to their faces.
I have given and I have been shamed. And I have to live with it. We all live with it.
The question is what happens when we’ve all had enough and are we even close to that point?
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