As mothers, we all say, we would do anything for our children. Does “anything” include panhandling on the subway or subway station with your baby strapped to your chest?
I don’t ride the subway much, but the times that I have, I’ve noticed more and more women asking for money with (what I assume are) their children quietly sleeping in a baby carrier.
I remember my first encounter with a panhandling mom. About a year ago I was rushing to the subway from work and after swiping my metro card I made my way through the corridor and started to descend down the stairs. That is when I saw her, sitting on the stairs with a sign, clutching her baby girl.
It stopped me in my tracks. My eyes began to flutter around the station, looking at all the other people passing her by as if she were invisible. How could they not see that something was clearly wrong with this picture? How could anyone just breeze by with this helpless baby here?
I reached into my purse and took out a $20 bill. I crouched down with the money balled up in my hand and asked her if she needed help, that I would help her. She just shook her head and pointed to the sign. She needed the money, she wanted the money that was the only help she was willing to accept from me. So confused and visibly dejected, I handed her the crumpled up $20 bill and walked off.
The whole train ride home a million questions ran through my mind. How could she refuse help? Did she want to be in the subway begging with her baby? I eventually let it go and moved on with my life. I can’t help anyone who doesn’t want it.
It wasn’t until recently that I saw another mother-baby duo in the subway car that I was able to place those deep down feelings I had about my prior experience. I felt like this continual presence of mommy panhandlers was starting to take the shape of a new and improved hustle. I don’t know if these babies actually belong to these women, or even if the oddly quiet children are sedated!
I don’t know if there is a band of women deciding to play on the emotions of others for financial gain or if these women really are in desperate need. All I know, is that there is something compelling and sobering seeing a woman carry her baby on her chest the same way I do.
So I reached into my bag and pulled out a $5 bill, handed it to her and got off at the next stop. It’s not my position to convict her (or rather, “them”).
As long as there is suffering in this world there is always the chance that they are just mothers doing “anything” to take care of their children.
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