Friday, February 25, 2011

Spare Change

This past summer we were driving to Ocala for some reason or another and drove by the intersection of Highway 200 at Interstate 75. There's always a myriad of traffic, people, congestion and the like and one has to be careful to avoid all the snarls and distractions. On the side of the road I saw several people panhandling. I started to look away thinking most of them had a social resource for sustenance.

Oh, you've probably heard the story of the guy in San Francisco who made 40k a year panhandling for spare change and drove away each day in his fancy SUV parked around the corner. Just a week ago the news in Tampa said they were going to ban panhandlers in the city. Sure some people asking for spare change on street corners aren't legitimate, but some of them are. How can a person tell which cry for help is legitimate and which isn't?

As I turned away that day, I saw her in the crowd of others who were begging. A young woman dressed in clean, well worn clothes with a baseball cap shielding her face from the 96F noon day temperatures. She held a sign which read, "Please help, mother of 3, laid off, needs work".

I turned to Gary and said, she needs work, we could hire her to do some painting or weeding at our house. Gary said she lives too far from our house and it wouldn't be cost effective for her to come to our home. Gary said how do you know you can trust her. I said I just know I can trust her. If she is out there begging in this heat, she is desperate and she needs help.

For weeks I couldn't get the picture of the woman who was begging out of my mind. I wanted to go back there and help her. I want to help all the folks I see by the side of the road and I know I can't. What can I do, what can I do? I hired a 70 year old painter to paint the outside of my house; I hired an out of work tile person, but somehow nothing seems to be enough. I thought to make something in art. Something to bring attention to the fact there are thousands, even millions of people in our country out of work and needing help.

I came home and made the sketch above for a piece I planned to make in clay, but it went no further. It was too painful for me to make that piece in clay, and I figured it wouldn't do any good anyway. I try to gather my strength, but sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough for others.

I debated whether to publish this post today, I've had it in the cue for months, but then I read the post Learn to Be Present by Paul at Quoteflections and I decided to go ahead and publish this. A 17 year old boy came and bought our bed (see the previous post) with money given to him by a volunteer for habitat for humanity. He was so happy he was going to sleep in his own bed in his new house tonight. And we were happy to sell the bed, not to mention it isn't taking up space in the garage.


  1. A few weeks ago I posted about a dog that was cared for by a homeless man when the owners abandoned him ( This just goes to prove that all homeless people aren't out there to rip us off or to put the money they get to misuse.
    Make the art Linda, people look at art with their hearts ready to react, maybe this is the another way you can help the less fortunate.

  2. Hi Lori, thanks, I remember when you posted that story, my heart sang for the beauty of that man who took care of that dog.

  3. There really are people in true need standing on corners asking for help. It's a shame panhandlers muddy the waters. Yes, yes, please go ahead and make your art. Perhaps you could link a certain percentage to a local organization that works with the homeless. I think buyers would be happy to purchas art that helped others out.

    You've got a really big, wonderful heart!

  4. I dreamed a complicated tale of helping people last night very dramatic and complex. I awoke to read your post. Perhaps, our vulnerability and compassion are being discussed and felt because the world needs it right now more than ever.

    Remember the starfish story; if you only throw one back to the sea.. it saves that one.

    Hugs, I wish I lived closer to have coffee and maybe think up some ways to be of use to our communities. Joan Tucker

  5. Very thought provoking post. It is hard to tell when someone really needs help. I travel the same route most days, and when I see someone "new" I always give to them. And sometimes you just get a feeling about someone. It really saddens me to see so many more women out there asking for help. When the weather is cold, I carry a few jackets and a bag of gloves in the car with me.
    It's not much, but I feel it helps.

    As artists, I think we must all keep bringing attention to this problem of poverty and inequity in the world.

  6. Linda I nominated you for the Awesome Blog Award

  7. you have been chosen to receive the Awesome Blog Award!

  8. Hi Kittie, thanks so much. I am feeling a lot better about getting my feeling off my chest. I am now energized and have some ideas about how to put my feelings of hopelessness into some action that can help others.

    Oh Joan, thanks you are so right about the starfish and I feel so inadequate sometimes, but this is something I must keep in my mind only one starfish is so very important to save. I need to force myself to move towards the one starfish and then I will be in action instead of inaction. Thanks for this I needed it.

    Hi Barbara, thanks, I think you are right we need to bring attention to the plight of others around us with so much poverty and problems.

    Oh Joan, thanks I didn't really want an award for this I just needed to get my feelings out I will check to see what it is all about.

  9. Hi Pam, thanks, I am formulating a plan for next week where I can make a differece even for one mother and daughter. Thanks for your support.

  10. We were at the School of the Arts last week for Wesley's interview and the Dean gave a little speech to get the day started. The first thing he said got my attention right away and I wrote it down. He started by saying "what is art?" and then continued by saying that art comes from someone having a strong desire to express a feeling about something and then they use whatever creative form they choose, whether it be dance, film, paint, etc. to express those feelings. I thought what a simple way to describe art, while others write pages of statements about what art is, he summed it up in one clear sentence. Use your art to express what you are feeling, it will be amazing!

  11. Hey Linda, like yer post,I reakon a good/noble way of helping is to get the thoughts out there, especially if you can express it with the arts, cheers p

  12. Hi Pru, thanks, you are right I think my first step was verbalizing here, instead of keeping it inside me mind or in my sketch book, more to do.

  13. I, too, can identify with similar people in need. Too bad we often have to second guess our response. It becomes such a complicated issue when our first response should be compassion.

  14. Linda, I love your post. And I'm honored to be in your company in receiving the Awesome Blog Award! We each just have to do what we can when we can. I have a large family and we are really good at taking care of each other which I think keeps some of us off of the streets and then each of those people is able to help a little more so it's like the ripple effect. I hope this made sense.

  15. Hi Tracey, thanks, that is a perfect way to describe art, putting feelings into it, those are always the best pieces of art.

    Hi Paul, thanks, you are so right about first response, but then again in this day and age who can blame someone since there are so many scam artists out there in so many venues. It seems honesty used to be the norm, now it seems to be the exception.

    Hi Cindy, thanks, yes we just have to do as much as we can to help those around us and hopefully that gives the ripple effect to others, I think it does work.


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