Philadelphia Metropolis


What Would You Do?

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A month ago, I was walking through North Philadelphia when a woman came up to me bawling hysterically about how she was from New Jersey and stranded.  She had never lived in Philadelphia and claimed to be completely lost.  When I calmed her down slightly, I asked why she was even in the city.  She said that her sister had turned 40 that night, and over the course of the evening, with insight clouded by alcohol and whatever else, her sister had left her in the street and got in a car with some people she had never seen before. Now, she was staring at me and four friends looking for a solution. Suddenly we had to deal with this

How could I not sympathize?  I've run around with the kind of people who get caught up in the night.  I've been the victim of situations where booze and drugs have clouded my judgment. I've accidentally stranded and I've also been the stranded.  But this woman was not young, in fact she was far from young, and I couldn't get that thought out of my head while she was randomly blubbering out bits and pieces of her story.
Crying Woman.jpgWhat to do? What to do? There was really nothing I could do at the moment.  Every time I asked her what she wanted me to do she would just say:"I dooon't knooowah!" So it became apparent that there wasn't really anything I could do but put her in a cab and pay her way.  Some of the people I was with were telling her that she'd be fine and to sleep somewhere close to the Temple campus, where she'd be safe.  She only looked more miserable when confronted with this option, not being someone who slept in the street on a regular basis. 
So I gave her a pretty sweet deal.  I would give her the money to get home via cab.  At the time I didn't have it in me to just blow her off.  She was crying her eyes out and I guess the combination of that, some inebriation, and the fact that I'm a sucker all factored in to this decision. So and I walked out to
Broad Street and I flagged down a cab and told the driver the situation and he agreed to take her wherever she needed to go.  I handed him the amount of money necessary to get her anywhere within reason and they were off.
I stood on the street and watched the cab go away.  I felt good about having helped her out, but at the same time apprehensive about the fact I may have been duped.  Is there such a thing as being able to trust someone in a desperate situation, or is it valid in this day and age to just assume that everyone is a liar and should be ignored?

My experience is that most of the people who approach other people and ask for money are blatant liars.  They always just need a cup of coffee or a subway token.  Some even get upset when you say you don't have money to give.  That's a paradox, people who have no money resenting people just because they have no money. 
This case was different, this woman looked desperate, and she looked like she needed help.  So the right thing to do is help if you can.  That was my thinking when I chose to help her.
The cab drove off down Broad and I walked back to my apartment glad that she would not have to sleep on a bench.  The right thing to do was staring at me in the face and it was only be a matter of whether or not I cared enough.  I suppose I can say I did the right thing. 
Should we allow ourselves to become calloused, to not care when someone approaches us in a fit of desperation? I don't know what the proper outlook is, but I do know that one of my friends who had been with me the night of the cab ride saw the same woman in another neighborhood two weeks later. She was begging for change in front of a convenience store. She must be really down on her luck, seeing as she's gotten stranded two weeks in a row. Or maybe it's just really hard to get unstranded.


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