I'm writing again with no idea of what will happen. Wish me luck.
Today I was on Melrose waiting to get a standby ticket to a theater. A young boy, probably about 12, came up to me and asked me to buy his incense for a dollar as he was passing by with his mother. She kept walking. He looked at me and pleaded, and said please several times, like a child asking a parent for candy at a movie. I kept saying no for some reason. He only wanted a dollar, and I had a dollar in my pocket. I didn't want the incense. I could have given him a dollar.
I don't know why it sticks with me, other than being asked for money by children is always disconcerting. His mother didn't even notice. I don't know where the live, even if they have a home. A dollar would have been nothing to me.
When I first moved to New York, I would make eye contact with everyone, and smile. Mostly what this meant was that I was engaged by people who would ask for money. I eventually learned, like everyone else, to avoid eye contact. I learned how to say no. I'm still guilty whenever I do. A friend got angry with me once when I gave money to someone, asking why this person and not the other ten who've asked. It's a good question.
It's my policy now to buy food. I rarely give someone money, but I'll buy a sandwich or a banana or something. I don't always have money to give, and those are the easiest times. If I'm not carrying cash, I'm not lying.
I wasn't lying today. I didn't want to buy the incense. I was put in an uncomfortable position. I don't want to say no to a child. Would that dollar mean he would have had dinner? Is that what his mother was looking for when she walked by me to one street corner and then walked past me again on her way back? Someone else bought incense from the boy. Some other helpful stranger.
It's going to bother me, if only for the way he said "please." I don't have children, but I said no like I was the adult. I am an adult. Children shouldn't have to beg for money on the street. I didn't make the situation, but it will be difficult to forget it. Of course, I want to make it some larger recrimination of myself, that I missed a chance to be giving and I was being tested, my karma will be effected. But I know this is not true. I don't have enough dollars to solve the situation. Sometimes I'm the helpful stranger, but sadly, not today.