The Coin Collector

A woman approached me recently while I walked home on Genesee Street between South Crouse and University avenues. She was a tall, thin African-American woman, and she wore a puffy black winter coat, blue-gray sweatpants and brown-rimmed glasses. She also carried a brown leather purse in the crook of her right arm.

I saw her asking people for money and she had asked me for change on at least one other occasion.

As I came to the intersection at Genesee and University, the woman lost a coin and it fell in the street near the curb. She bent down to pick it up and then she turned to me and waved.

Photo by Francis DiClemente

Photo by Francis DiClemente

I was listening to music on my iPod and I took off my headphones. “Excuse me,” she said. “Do you have 95 cents for the bus?”

I said, “no,” but I pulled out a dollar bill from my wallet and handed it to her; I remember being aggravated because it was cold and I had to remove my gloves. “Thanks honey,” she said as she accepted the money. And then she took off, walking along Genesee Street.

She approached a small group of people gathered on the sidewalk and praying outside Planned Parenthood. I admired her persistence and the swiftness of her routine.

She would either receive some change or get brushed off. Either way, she didn’t waste any time. It was a quick exchange and then she marched away, heading for the next person.

Photo by Francis DiClemente

Photo by Francis DiClemente

After I went inside my apartment building, I reflected on the incident and took into consideration the following information. You can decide for yourself what parts may be true.

A. The woman scammed me and everyone else and had no intention of using the money she received for bus fare.

B. Her request for bus fare was legitimate and she just needed some help getting home.

C. I know nothing about her life, so who am I to judge?

D. If Christ had been there, what would he have done? That’s an easy answer. I thought about two Bible verses. “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30; New International Version)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40; New International Version)

E. I accept the fact that the woman probably scammed me. But it was only a dollar and I considered it my gift to her; she could do whatever she wanted with the money.

F. I wonder how I will respond the next time she comes up to me asking for change. Will I reach into my pocket or keep on walking? I’ll let you know if I find out.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving everyone. I wish for you a day of relaxation and fun with your families.