Woman at a Broad Street Bus Stop


What difference will $1 make to the poor, the homeless?  None.  I’m not talking about the professional panhandler, who can make a good enough living.  I’m talking about the humble poor, who really need help, but who often don’t ask.  I gave such a woman $1 once, knowing guiltily that my contribution did nothing to help her solve her problems.  I only hope that my attempt at kindness made a difference in her heart.  She sat rocking, nursing her pains, at a bus stop on Broad Street in Philadelphia.  Back in my warm hotel room, this is what I wrote.


She rocked on a Broad Street bench
rubbing a leg through blue and green blankets.
Tears quietly cut her brown face.
Liquid eyes shone
upon each oblivious observer, pleaded
unheard for spontaneous compassion.
No cup or turned over hat called for
a casually cast coin.
“Could you use a dollar?” I ventured.
“Oh, yes,” she whispered.  “I need to buy medicine.
I have such pain.”
She rubbed and she wept.
She asked for nothing.
What use is a lousy dollar!  What use
are a hundred lousy dollars!
And she asked for nothing.
“God bless you, sir,” she cried
as she rocked and rubbed her aches through her blankets.
She asked for nothing.

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