Sunday, April 12, 2009

Young Woman with a Dog

The signs of the flailing economy are arriving ever closer to our doorsteps.

One cannot leave one's comfortable NYC apartment these days without seeing desperate people digging through garbage bags seeking cans, bottles or other potentially "valuable" items.

Yesterday, while walking down East 86th Street on Manhattan's fashionable Upper East Side, I noted a young woman sitting near the curb with a hand-printed sign in front of her. I didn't read all of the sign, but simply caught the word, "broke."

The young and plain looking, but attractive woman buried her head in a book, while thousands of busy Manhattanites passed her by.

If she was "begging" the young woman with brown hair and pale skin apparently didn't want to acknowledge that even to herself.

I normally don't walk up to street beggars, perhaps because I don't want to be drawn into their personal stories of despair.

But, I did walk up to the young woman.

The grungy looking, but happy and well fed whitish Shepherd mix sitting beside her gave me good excuse.

"That's a nice looking dog," I said to her, while petting the friendly mutt. "Where did you get him?"

"Someone gave him to me," the 20-something woman answered somewhat sheepishly. Pale green eyes briefly caught mine and then quickly looked away.

She seemed shy or embarrassed about her situation and so I did not press her into conversation. Instead, I offered her a few single dollars, smiled and simply said, "Well, he's a real nice dog. Take good care of him."

The woman took the money and in a voice that was barely audible, said, "Thank you, I will."

I walked away thinking to myself that I could have been a little warmer or more engaging of the woman into conversation.

But, I wasn't sure of how to do that. I didn't want to be too prying or personal. I didn't want to be dragged into something that might be over my head in terms of knowing how to properly deal with.

I just wanted to be a friendly face.

Less than an hour later I walked up the block again.

The woman was still there with her loyal dog by her side as thousands of people continued to pass her by.

But, either not noticing NYC's seeming indifference to pain or pretending not to care, the woman remained with her face buried in a book.

I did not stop this time, but continued on.

I still can't answer what is the best thing to do in situations like these.

I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of them. -- PCA


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