Things people will say for a little loose change

Last week, within the course of three days, three separate people approached me with stories that necessitated giving them money. The first had lost his wallet. He was, he assured me, a UPS driver and needed to get the bus home. The second had had her purse stolen. She had no food to give her children and had to be at work in an hour and a half and cereal was 5 for $10 so that meant $2 for one box and it was pre-sweetened so that would help, and so she just needed to scrounge up enough to buy a box of cereal for the kids and maybe some milk. The third had just had his toes removed and needed to hustle (his word) money to get the bus to his mom's house. He showed me his foot. He did indeed have no toes. I didn't believe that he had just had them removed, but I did feel bad for him. Unfortunately, all I had was $20 bills, because I had just given all my change to the lady who needed the $2 box of cereal.

Even if I don't believe the stories, I believe these folks are in need of money, and I usually give them a little. I give it to them so as not to look them in the eye and tell them I don't believe them and that it's because they look poor or desperate. I give it to them because they've told me a plausible story and it's too humiliating to me and them to claim not to believe them.

But still: Three in as many days? Has someone recruited a bunch of people to do this kind of work? Am I looking like a particularly good mark these days? Or are there actually more homeless people around desperately scrambling for a little loose change?


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