Last weekend I was out having a late afternoon bottle of wine with friends when one of the people in our group invited another friend of his to join us. His friend was a southerner, Christian, right winger, oil company owner. When he first sat down and I heard the twang I must admit I already was forming an opinion. And not a good one. I quickly softened though as we shared a few laughs (drinks help) and then late afternoon quickly slid into a beautiful orange sunset evening and spilled over into a "one more round" kind of night.
We ended up talking politics, bantering back and forth. And in our respective corners, The southerner, Mr. Know It All vs. me, Ms. I Wish I Could Remember Anything At All. He spewed his opinions about the war, Bush, Obama, Congress, solar energy, those so called "environmentalists" who in his mindset did much more harm than good. He attacked the welfare system, the people on unemployment, saying they needed to work for this money. Get out and sweep streets, pick up garbage, whatever. I think he definitely has a point, I agree. But things aren't black and white, there are always exceptions (such as me, making one for myself here, who has been trying for the last few months to collect unemployment and really, I am just not the street cleaning type, gray area, very gray). But, what about the people that already hold those jobs? Would they lose them to the unemployed, the welfare rats (his terminology, not mine) and then be one of the thousands standing in the unemployment line? We went round and round. But on this one subject I had to agree, he was right. Something should be required of those who receive assistance from the government if they are physically and mentally able to do so. We need to give back in some way. I personally don't have the answers.
We finally got up to leave the bar. Hugs all around and no hard feelings. He apologized later for getting on his soapbox, blamed it on the alcohol. I told him it was fine, no problem, but warned him to be prepared because next time I intended to come armed with the Second Amendment, equipped with enough verbal ammunition to knock him right off his slippery soapy slope. He laughed. In my face. Then he dared me. I'm going to need to channel my inner Ann here.
Walking on Tuesday with my journalist friend, we walked down to the beach and onto Sterns wharf. Looking over the railing down onto the sand, there was a homeless man, trying to collect money. Inventively, he had placed cloths, two of them side by side and had set up your basic coin toss carnival game. Now normally at the carnival you would be trying to get your coin into a small bowl, complete with goldfish so that you could take it home, and though it would more than likely not survive the week you still went home with a prize. Something for your money. We all like that. But here this homeless person, some would call beggar, had created this fun, make a wish, coin toss game, where for a measly coin you could make a wish. A wish that could maybe change your life if it came true. I tossed a coin. Made my wish. It didn't even come close to the little white plastic wish bowl but it did land on the cardboard sign where he had written "make a wish". I thought that in itself seemed extremely lucky.
I was impressed with this homeless man's ingenious idea. I guess because I had never been offered anything in return for the many handouts I had given over the years. Yes, some offered up funny signs, some had honest signs (I need a beer), and others with their obvious signs, missing limbs which silently screamed out their unquestionable dire situations. All in all, they had to prove something for me to give something.
But as my friend said to me later that evening in an email, "Churches have "collection plates" and now here is an innovative homeless person with a "collection cloth"… "We all have to make a living. Pastors do it by passing the collection plate and here this creative homeless person does it by setting up a collection cloth along a beautiful stretch of the California Coast." Hmm, interesting. My friend is a very good writer.
The homeless man was giving back, in his own way. Whatever money he receives he is offering something of value, whether it be simple fun or pure entertainment, it is something for the money. A true exchange. Then it hit me. This man is creative, he might even be genius status, who knows? The government could hire him, create a new position, something like "Job Creator For Slackers" (i.e., receiving some sort of government assistance). I'm sure with his experience he could think of a multitude of ways we all could help out, contribute our fair share to those lending us a helping hand. Everyone would be happy, it's a win win. Except I'm sure Mr. Know It All would find plenty of fault with this idea. Especially coming from me, a sassy second amendment packing moderate.