An Open Letter to John/Willie

Hello, John!
I know we’ve never met but I somehow feel as if I know you, so I’ve decided to call you John, as in John Doe. You see, you have been a fixture on my morning commute for the last 3 months. I first noticed you about two weeks into my my new job, standing on the side of the road as I approached the mid point  of my morning drive. You were standing there, with your sign held high. Your oversized neon green shirt seemed light for late January at 6:00 a.m. and I found myself concerned about how well those house slippers were keeping your feet warm.

Day after day, I saw you there and each day I was able to read just a little more of your sign. “Trying to feed my family,” it read. I genuinely felt bad for you. I wanted to help you, but I was having problems of my own. In those first few weeks, I vowed to help you in some way when I started to get a regular paycheck.

JohnWillie.jpgOver the next few weeks, I saw you there every morning and every afternoon. I admired your devotion and commitment to working through your situation. I felt that it took courage to put yourself out there every day. Some days I would see people pull over to your area of the street and hand things out the window that you graciously accepted. It always warmed my heart to see someone donating to help you and your family.

Then something changed. You were missing for a few days and then reappeared here and there in the mornings but still every afternoon. I wasn’t sure what to make of it but I soon noticed your new clothes, leather backpack and expensive shoes. I also noticed your cardboard/sharpie sign had been upgraded to a nice new plank of wood with painted letters.

Now that I have given it a little more thought, my opinion of your situation has changed.

Your location was very well chosen. You stand at the end of the only street leading to the industrial area of town where all the local factory workers and pick up and delivery drivers must drive past you. These are people who can directly relate to hard work, hardship and struggle. They are a captive audience who can feel your pain.

Do you really even have a family? If you do, then I’m sure you are also enjoying around $400 per month in food stamps. Your family is most likely being fed better than mine. They are probably even in better health than I am as well, since you are entitled to state insurance who will force an assigned physician to see you. Due to your entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll even be able to schedule appointments when it is most convenient for you and not be penalized for leaving your “job” to go to said appointment.

So, as I cross the finish line of my 90 day probation period on my new job, I’ve changed your name to Willie, Slick Willie. I can’t escape the idea that I’m up at 4:30 a.m. every day and driving an hour to my desk job. Then driving an hour home each day only to see you two times on my round trip wearing much better clothes than I can afford, enjoying flexible hours and likely reaping the benefits of government meal supplements, state health insurance, self-employment and no payroll tax.

I can certainly sympathize with someone having a hard time in the world today and I can understand someone asking for help until they can get on their feet. You, Willie, have made a career of begging and it is none too flattering on you. Enjoy it while it lasts. Karma is truly a bitch and she will catch up with you eventually.

Your Pal,

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