Anything helps…

It’s one of those sights that’s easy to become immune to: A disheveled person, maybe on the verge of tears, maybe with a defiant air of dignity, maybe with a vacant stare, clutches a sign asking for help — anything, even just a warm smile. And they search the faces of drivers, who are cocooned in their comfy cars, to see if anyone has a buck to spare.

The sign brigade cluster on the corners of busy intersections, near grocery stores and liquor stores. It’s easy to overlook them, chide “get a job” or avert eyes, train attention to a radio, cell phone or some other make-believe pressing matter. But ignoring doesn’t make them disappear. It doesn’t ease the hunger in their bellies. And it doesn’t soothe their pain.

The boyfriend was compelled to stop, chat and offer a bill on Sunday.

He was a big, burly man, handlebar mustache, ballcap, and ready smile. His sign said he was a vet. And his legs said he’d seen better days: One was amputated above the knee, pant leg tucked underneath. His “good” leg was outstretched, swollen and, where toes once wriggled, crusted and white.

“Could have been agent orange,” the boyfriend said to my outlound wonder if the man was battling diabetes without the benefit of steady meals and medical treatment.

The boyfriend explained that lots of the Vietnam-era vets that he sees battle diabetes and other usually heredtiary diseases as an aftermath result of exposure to toxins, like agent orange.

He wondered if the man was plugged into available services for vets. I wondered how many stories are behind those cardboard signs. How many people read beyond the letters. And how many more it will take before we see them.



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