3 things we all can learn from panhandlers

Photo credit: R. Duarte via / CC BY-NC

I have a quarterly ritual. I schedule the earliest appointment my hair stylist has available on a Saturday morning, once a quarter and get my hair cut. After my haircut, I walk across the street to sit in the window nook of a local pizzaria and people watch while enjoying a slice of pepperoni pizza and cider.

East Atlanta Village (EAV) is a melting pot community of people. There are businesses, residential houses, restaurants, bars, shops, and sometimes street fairs. At any given time it isn’t unusual to see a “bucket” car drive past blasting music right behind a 2018 BMW Truck.

Honestly, a lot of Atlanta is like that, with a broad mixture of socioeconomic classes which make for great reflection and viewing.
I sat in the left corner of the nook looking out the window at a police officer on bike patrol, when a Marta bus pulled up and a homeless man get off.

For many, myself included, in the past the homeless population made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t as if I didn’t see them as humans, but that I saw them as something that I could have been — if fate and destruction had it’s way with me.

The black man stepped off the bus smoking a cigarette, with scruffy facial hair, wearing baggy, tattered jeans, and he placed a Crown Royal bag in his pocket. (The purple bag packaging that black folks use as a change pouch after devouring the bottle)

He scanned the scene, as it was a street fair and there was a decent amount of people walking the streets. He locked eyes with me in the window and began signing to me asking for money. I politely declined.

As he stood at the stop light, he repeated the same arm motions and words as he requested any offering passer-by’s would give. I watched him for 15 minutes before he decided to cross the street and take a different angle of the street. As I watched him, I was bombarded with humbling realizations, that I could use in my everyday life.

Removal of the Ego

It takes a large level of humility to be able to stand on a corner and ask strangers for money. I personally, hate doing it, even for fundraisers, let alone imagining having to do so as a means to survive.


Patience and Consistency

Being consistent in going out and standing on different corners daily is a feat. When the world is on your back and you feel there’s nothing to do, it would seem to be easy to become hopeless want to just lay and sleep in the streets all day.



After repeatedly being told no, it is easy to lose faith in a bigger picture. The kind of resiliency it takes to live on the streets and in shelters in high.

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