I noticed them standing there but I didn't pay any attention. Actually, I made a point not to pay any attention. I have seen them for many years on many street corners, at the end of many freeway ramps, in many parks around this city I have grown to love, at gas stations, and yes, even walking down our street rummaging through our trash cans on garbage days.
My eyes connected for a split second with the man of the duo. He was the one holding the sign as his female counterpart paced the road looking for sympathetic passersby. When it comes to the people of the street, whatever their story, over the years my sympathy has morphed to skepticism. I've seen too many, heard too much, dug into my purse too many times, been swung at by a crazed man or two, and well, I've become a mom. My awareness has shifted - my world has turned - my kids are to be protected.
I was content to sit through the uncomfortable moment of the couple in need staring at me through my closed window and wait for the green light to save me. Until, from the back seat of the van, CR calls out, "Mama, what does the sign say?"
Forced to bridge the space between me and the duo, I turned to really look at the cardboard sign he was holding.
"It says, 'Stranded. Need gas and car repairs. Please help."
"What does 'stranded' mean Mama?"
"It means, they're stuck. In a bad spot. Their car doesn't work. They need help. They need money."
The skeptic in me guessed the stranded story was just a guise. A way to sucker in the faithful few so they could buy some booze or some weed or in the best scenario, a meal. Without thinking much, I asked, "Should I give them some money?"
And with that question, I turned around and was taken aback by the three innocent faces staring back at me. Dressed in their Catholic school plaid uniforms, they nodded emphatically and in their trio of voices they said "Yes! Of course! Yes!"
I reached over to my purse, grabbed out a dollar, rolled down the window and handed it to the stranded man who accepted it with thanks. I watched him as shoved it into his back pocket and took his place back on the curb.
I turned back to look at CR and with an open-mouthed smile of pure joy, she clapped and said, "Yea!!"
And with that smile, my stranded soul stuck in skepticism was renewed with sympathy.