As I was driving around checking things off my to do list this morning I was listening to my local public radio station, KUHF. I heard Diane Rehm talking with EJ Dionne and Ramesh Ponnuru and discussing last night’s debate. I also listened to a conversation between Diane Rehm and Ben Vereen that was very inspiring. By time I got back in the car, Terry Gross was having a great talk with Meryl Streep, though it was a reairing of a broadcast of Fresh Air that originally aired in March. This is the fundraising season for KUHF and after listening to all of that this morning, I thought, “I am going to make a donation, even a small one as soon as I get home. It’s so silly that people grumble about the little government funding these organizations receive. Surely I’ve got $10 to contribute to the captivating programming I’ve been listening to.” And then Ira Glass played a clip of Howard Stern convincing people to pay to listen to his satellite radio program — it definitely closed the deal on my public radio donation.
I was sitting at a stop light just five minutes from home listening to the Ira Glass bit when I saw a man standing at the corner. He had a cardboard sign on which he had scrawled his request for work, imploring “anything helps” — and I could not help. I don’t have cash or food in my car. He doesn’t have a website that I can visit to donate to his cause, nor have I seen the proof of why I should invest in him. What, then, leaves him with his best option being standing on the side of the road asking for money?
Is he unemployed? Have his benefits run out? Is he a drunk or drug addict trying to fund his habit, or is he a father simply trying to provide for his children? Who is going to help this man who has put all shame aside and stands on the corner for all to see at what I assume to be a very low point in his life?
I don’t know. And I still can’t help him. I know some folks keep small care packages in their cars for such situations, but if he really does have a family to feed, are peanut butter crackers and a bottle of water going to be enough?
I support government programs to help people in my community who are down and out. I’ve had hard times in my life, too, and I know it really sucks. I am very lucky to be at a point in my life that I can ponder my public radio donation instead of at a point where I am trying to make ends meet. I am where I am because of government programs AND private programs, but also because of my own hard work.
The solution is not one that is all of one or all of another. It is not an extreme. I hear people complaining all the time about the extreme views of other cultures and other religions while being completely blind to their own extremism.
On my errands today, I also saw this outside my local post office:
While I completely support this lady’s right to have this point of view and even display this sign, I think it’s in terrible and ignorant taste and is a sign of the extremism in our own country that is poisoning our culture.
If we can’t work together and find some middle ground, we are all going to be standing on the corner asking for work.