A lady came up to me at work a few days ago and said “I’m walking. How do I get downtown?” She was middle aged and looked healthy in mind and body. This was around 6 pm.
Now, you need to understand that downtown Nashville is about twenty minutes away, by car, from where we were.
I said that was going to take her hours. She said it didn’t matter, she had to get to work in the morning and she didn’t have any money for a taxi and she didn’t understand the bus routes. She again asked for directions on how to walk to downtown Nashville.
I was torn, a little. Should I give her money? She didn’t ask for it. She looked like she was in her right mind, even though I didn’t think she was acting like it.
So I gave her directions. If you walk north to the main road and go left it is a straight shot to downtown. It is how I go, but I drive. The freeway traffic in Nashville is terrible. I hope to never walk to downtown, but if I had to I’d go this way.
This all raised more questions.
Why doesn’t she have a car?
Why doesn’t she have any money?
Where are friends she could call for a ride?
Where is she going to sleep – or is she?
How did she get here to start off with?
How did she get to be my age and be in such a situation?
But then again, I think I was more concerned about her than she was. I felt that this was a bad situation, but one brought about by bad choices. She seemed rather matter of fact about it, blasé even. I got the impression that this was her normal.
While I wanted to rescue her by giving her money for a cab, I got the impression didn’t feel like she needed to be rescued. And I knew deep down that if I bailed her out this time, it wouldn’t prevent the next time. If she hasn’t learned how to plan ahead by now it is highly unlikely that she is going to any time soon.
I wonder if she made it to where she was going. I wonder if she knew what to do when she got there.
I gave her the help she asked for, and secretly I was relieved that she didn’t ask for money. I’m always wary of panhandlers. I never know if they are going to spend the money I give them on what they asked for. I don’t want to aid and abet an addiction.
I wanted to save her from what I saw as bad choices. If I’m being honest, I wanted her to be me. I wanted her to be independent and self sufficient. But if I’m digging even further and being really honest I have to admit that she already was, she just wasn’t in a way that I recognized and approved of.