Monday, June 2, 2014

The Sad Irony Of A One Armed Beggar


At the corner of Greenway and Grand in Surprise, Arizona you'll find an old man standing on the corner carrying a donation can. He's there every day, throughout the day. To receive sympathy he buries his good left arm beneath his T-shirt and poses as a one-handed beggar. His ruse is almost comical as passersby can see a perfectly good working hand and arm squiggling about beneath his T-shirt.

Just across the street is an open field where Mexicans gather and hope someone will pick them up to do yard work or other day labor chores. The Mexicans are dressed cleanly and are alert for any interest from a car going by. They are equally immaculate with their surroundings; they bring with them large black trash bags to collect their soda cups and lunch bags and thus keep their "work place" tidy.
Back across the street the elderly "one-armed man" will call to the Mexicans across the street, screaming incoherences that would not be understood even if they spoke good English.
Over the last couple of years I've driven past these two co-habitating factions dozens of times. While I'm against illegal immigration I am heartened when I see the Mexican labor pool has been pared down to a few dozen from the two hundred who show up at dawn looking for a few hours work.
But I had little sympathy for the one-armed "poser" until a few weeks ago. It happened one spring day when I had my car windows down and could hear what the old guy was spewing. At this particular time the old guy was lecturing a young Mexican kid who was waiting with his bike for the signal to cross the busy Grand Parkway. Though I could clearly hear the old man's "speech" I realized that he wasn't making any sense, neither to the kid waiting to cross nor to me through the open car window.
It was then that I realized the irony; the old man was indeed handicapped, but not from the "missing arm"; instead his brain was fried from some sad trek down the road of addiction...crystal meth or bath salts or didn't matter...something had robbed him of his sanity. 

So, I called him over, grabbed a bunch of change from my car change drawer and handed it over. I realized he need a "hand" after all.

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