“We are all beggars, each in our own ways.” Mark Twain
“He that has neither fools, whores or beggars among his kindred is but a thundergust liar.” Ben Franklin
Begging, panhandling, the terms usually bounces through my mind with ease and out comes a negative judgement when I see those that are organized panhandlers near exit ramps of area freeways. The captive audience looks away while waiting for the red light to turn green. A very few offer money to a very few panhandlers. I could count on one hand and have fingers left (certainly an inappropriate remark given Gray Wolf’s condition…or is it?) over the number of times I have given to any panhandler. It has been in severely inclement weather and there was no doubt in my mind the person was in throes of desperation to be out there.
Today, as I came off the freeway, I looked ahead to the panhandler’s staging area and saw but one person there. I man ‘confined’ to a wheelchair, with a dog in his lap, a seemingly genuine smile on his face while he waved at passersby. The obvious was in view: wheelchair, artificial limbs, significant scar tissue/skin grafts. A cute dog finished off the image. It dug into my mind as I turned to drive on. It dug further. I had to go back. What!?! ‘I don’t go back for anyone’. But, I did.
Something inspired me to seek a photograph. Something told me I would not be well received. And, I wasn’t. I stood by as he let me know in no uncertain terms he had allowed this once before and was depicted as a loser. I assured him that was not what I had in my mind and that I wanted to photograph him because he was some how part of a special moment for me.
Of course, he looked at me like I was on something. He refused again. I thanked him for his time, bestowed a donation upon him and prepared to depart. Something must have told him I might be different and he asked a few more questions. I explained what I considered SwittersB & Exploring to be about. ‘Ok you can take my picture.” He agreed to a few photos. I took them and he made certain his bio was spelled correctly ‘Gray Wolf…not Grey, GrAy’. He loosened up. I thanked him. He extended his fingerless hand to shake my hand. I accepted and sincerely looked him in the eye and thanked him. I haven’t said why…I think you know why. Certain things are real…some are almost real…and many are not even close. Gray Wolf was real (and Leonidas) was special too).