The woman in the mall with a sign and a baby

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So I’m spending today inside the local mall, researching my book within the confines of the food court. On my table, alongside my laptop, is a large cup of iced coffee and the remnants of a chicken sandwich.

Roughly five minutes ago a young woman approached—baby attached to her chest, yellow cardboard sign in hand. The sign, in neat-ish letters, read HUNGRY, HAVE BABY. CAN YOU HELP ME? She asked, specifically, for money.

Who to do?

So, generally, I offer to buy food. And I should have here, but found myself a bit flustered and engaged in other pursuits. But, truly, what is a person to do? I could have given her money. I assume $10 is needed more by her than by me. But what will the money actually go to? Will it help her? Is she part of some sort of ring? Is it her baby? And why is she carrying the baby around a mall asking for help? Has she reached out to various agencies? Does she need various agencies?

I have no idea—and I loathe not knowing.

My kids and I discuss this quite a bit. There are scores of indifferent people in the world; people who see a person begging for money and sneer, “Get a job.” I don’t know this woman’s circumstance, but I do know—no matter the situation—she’s walking through a mall food court, asking for money.

And there’s no joy in that.

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