I was walking by myself downtown last night at about 10pm, and a man stopped me. His appearance suggested that he was having a hard time of it, maybe even didn't have a home - tired face, worn clothes.
"Excuse me, could you help me out?" he asked, politely.
"I'm sorry, I don't have any cash." I smiled and replied, starting to walk backwards toward my destination. Since I stopped waiting tables, I never have any cash. This has become a kind of reflex for me - I don't want to let people spend too much time asking me for money I don't have.
"I'm not asking for money, I just need help getting some food."
I stopped walking. It's bad enough that there are people in my city in real need of food, but if a person is standing in front of me asking for it, there's really no excuse.
I looked around. We were right by a convenience store. I thought maybe we could go in there and I would buy him something with my credit card.
"What kind of food?" I asked. This was important to the plan of action I was putting together in my head.
"I need food for my baby. I have a ten-month old and they kick you out of the shelter after 60 days. I'm not ever from here, I'm from Connecticut."
At this point, two things were going on in my head: First, why was he not answering my question? It made me think that his speech about the baby was just that, a speech. Second, I remembered that I actually did have cash, but I was too embarrassed to give it to him, lest he think I was lying when I said I had none.
"Listen, I'm coming to a woman for help, so you know I must be in a really bad place," he went on, grinning and bowing slightly, as if I could certainly understand that.
My eyes squinted and my mouth got smaller.
"I'm sorry. Not tonight." I smiled weakly and walked away.
I'm a little ashamed that I let my ideas about gender equality stop my from further engaging a human that was obviously in need of something (maybe not food, but something). I really bothered me, though. I thought "Really? Even here? Even when I'm being panhandled, I need to be told by another person, who doesn't know me at all, that my being a woman dictates what role I can play and what I have to offer?"
This post was written as part of a blogging game. The players are The Creative Collective. Click here to read what the others have to say about "MEN."