August 13, 2010

Ad Exec loans AmEx card to homeless dude; he returns it

Kind of unfortunate that that has become an international headline, first published in the New York Post. That is, that someone returned to a stranger, what he promised, but it's a tickler of a story.

My granny told me she oft fed "hobos" who came to her back door after hopping off the railroad cars that snaked through the farm fields. That was depression era, but as we know, homelessness is, and always will be.

As for the woman, feeling "eternally optimistic" with just one margarita under her belt when approached by a homeless beggar, "Everybody [who witnessed her charitable act] said they thought that was the dumbest thing, that there's a fine line between charity and stupidity."

It's not surprising, then, that she volunteers with the Coalition for the Homeless. And as a New York ad executive, she apparently felt she knew her audience, homeless man Jay Valentine, who asked her for cash to buy a Vitaminwater. (Those ad folk are doing their work: the man asked for product by brand name!)

With no paper cash at hand, she said that she only had her AmEx card. Mr. Valentine asked if he could use it. She said yes. He asked if it was okay if he bought cigarettes with it, too, and she again said "yes," before he walked off with her AmEx card.

Said Valentine, "I went and bought a few things and came back and gave her her credit card back, and everybody was surprised. I said, 'Thanks for trusting me.' I guess she had a good sense of judgment. She knew I was trustworthy."

Valentine then spent about $25 on deodorant, body wash, Nat Sherman cigarettes and the water.

Back to what the bystanders said of her "stupidity;" is it true, my gentle readers? Is there a fine line between charity and stupidity? Then let's take it.

I spent 22 years loving my homeless girl, and I miss her still. I let her sleep in my home a few times, but knowing she was mentally ill and my personal safety could be compromised, I didn't encourage her to return, and she never pushed it.

My take? Do something a little bit "stupid" and trusting of a needy stranger or homeless person in the next 48 hours. Not too stupid; just something a bit measured, that's all.

(A social worker--colleague of a dear friend of mine, was murdered in her Chicago home by a client she was helping and had allowed into her home. So I'm suggesting, do take a risk, but with something more like a credit card than, say, your personal safety, ya know...)

And one more thing... The advertising executive, Merrie Harris, later asked rhetorically, "So what--should we only trust people we know?  ...what would Bernie Madoff's friends say?"

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