In my last post I mentioned a friend’s story involving homeless people reminded me ozone of my stories which I then re-shared in the post. I liked his story so much that I asked him if I could share it with you, and he kindly granted me permission to do so. His name is Brad, and his story is below.
“When I first moved to the city, five years ago, I felt vaguely threatened by street people, many of whom are filthy and smell, some of whom ask for money. Every time I saw one I steeled myself, waiting for them to approach me and ask for money. Relieved if they didn’t. Then a friend of mine persuaded me to get a stack of silver dollars and to hand them out to anyone who asked. (That’s what he does when he comes to San Francisco – he lives in Sacramento.) I gave it a try.
“Three surprising things happened. First, the street people remembered me. I became the “silver dollar guy.” Second, the silver dollars had an emotional impact on each one I gave it to. It has heft. It feels valuable. They would stop and look at it and look at me, and thank me. They stopped being alien, and became people. I started seeing them as they were. Having a good day or not. Happy or sad. Drunk or sober. Living a hard life on the street. Third, although there are many street people in the city, most of the time they don’t actually ask for anything. It turns out that $20 (one roll of silver dollars) lasts a long time. Months, in fact. It cost so little that I was embarrassed that I’d ever worried about giving them something when they had asked. Different categorization, different reality.”
(For clarification: The the dollar coins in Brad’s story were full-size and silver in color but not made of the precious metal of the same name. They are getting much harder to find now that the modern nearly quarter-size ones have replaced them. If you like the idea and want to try it, but can’t find the large coins, you might consider the half-dollar coins which remain a lot larger than quarters.)