The Darker Side of Berkeley
It is another cold and overcast morning in Berkeley. As I run from parking to work, late as usual, she walks up to me with urgency. She is about sixty years old, is not grungy like some of the others I have seen, but does look very poor. As she starts addressing me, she doesn’t sound illiterate, crazy, or high. She says softly: “Good morning. I am homeless. I am cold and hungry. Can you give me some money to buy breakfast?” I stop and look at her. Something about those soft blue eyes grips me. I so want to talk to her, to find out her story, for she would have one I am sure. I am late and even if I was not, I wouldn’t be brave enough to ask and bear listening. I look in my purse and fish out two dollar bills and ask her: “Will this buy you something at McDonald’s?” She says: “Yes, thank you, God bless you.” As I start walking, I wonder again whether giving money to the homeless is a socially responsible thing to do. I usually begrudge being asked for money by beggars and vagrants, because I think if I started working at 15 and then continued to work all my life to support myself and others, so can and should those who can work. This time, though, I didn’t think those thoughts. Though I seldom admit it, some days being in Berkeley breaks my heart.