This Sunday is the 10th of October. Inspired by the Year of Giving, a guy named Howard Wu created an event, Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day. Howard thought that the perfect day to do this would be October 10th since it is 10/10/10. Why not join me and Howard and give $10 away this Sunday. Click here to go to Howard’s event page. Like the Worldwide Day of Giving, I encourage you to leave comments here or on the Facebook page about your experience. Good luck!
On Day 280 I saw Ernest holding a sign on the side of a very busy intersection in Virginia. Born in Alexandria, VA, this 51-year-old used to work for the Alexandria School Board, but he has been unemployed for the past five years. He now lives in motels.
“I started panhandling about a month and a half ago,” Ernest tells me. “I was working on and off for a moving truck company.” Now he stands on the corner of Lee Highway and Fairfax Road holding a sign that says, “I am homeless. Does it hurt to give to someone in need. Please help me if you can? God bless.”
He says that on a good day he brings in about $90.
Now divorced, Ernest has a 30 year-old-son, two grandkids and three stepchildren. “I try not to be a burden to any of my kids.” He says that some people he knows don’t know that he is homeless, but admits that “the truth will set you free.”
“I’m not learning too much out here,” he confesses as a pick-up truck whizzes by him pushing him up against the guard rail. “You get all kinds of people out here.” A lot of people show him compassion and offer him some help, but others taunt him. “You know some guys say stuff like, ‘Hey man you look healthy…get a job!’ I’m like, at least give me a smile or a wave or something.”
He says that it is really hard for him right now. “I would much rather have a job.” He would like to find work as a handyman, custodian or maintenance man.
Although he says he is not learning much, I did find one thing he has learned. He figured out where the best corner to stand was. “I used to stand across the street and a few other places, but this has the most traffic,” he explains. I was shocked that he chose the spot he did because there was only about 18 inches between him and the passing cars. I jumped over on the other side of the guard rail while I spoke with him because I didn’t feel safe standing where he was.
Ernest put the $10 I gave him toward the cost of his room that night.
Before leaving, we swapped telephone numbers in case someone reading this would like to contact Ernest about a job. I learned that in Arlington County if you fall below a certain economic indicator the county supplies you with a cell phone and a basic minutes plan. This gives homeless individuals like Ernest a way for family, friends and potential employers to locate them. Awesome!