JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Outside the coffee shop

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So I’m spending the day working at the Coffee Bean & Tea Shop here in Lake Forest, Cal. Nice place, a little too much air conditioning. But plenty of tables, outlets, lovely staff. Blah, blah.

Outside the front door, and to the right, sits a woman with a sign. PLEASE HELP. OUT OF WORK. Etc … etc. She’s probably 27 … 28. Pretty. Dressed in regular clothes. Dark hair. She is accompanied by two boys, both apparently pre-school age. Wearing regular shirts, shoes, khaki shorts.

And here’s the thing: I don’t know what to do.

Usually, I offer to buy food. But I’ve seen plenty of people buy her food and drink and hand her bills. So, truly, what can I do? My heart hurts, as it almost always hurts in these situations, because she’s begging alongside her two kids and I’m comfortably sipping from some coffee drink. And while some would (understandably, I suppose) say, “Why doesn’t she get off her ass and get a job?” I can’t imagine she wants to be sitting on a sidewalk, begging before her sons. I can’t imagine it’s a life she aspires to, or feels comfortable with. Nobody wants to beg. So, no matter her circumstance, I hurt for her, and I hurt for her kids.

But I don’t know what I can do.

If anything.