I don't get it. I really don't. Why do these kids have to be out at the traffic light begging for money? Every day I drive to the site and I pass by this big intersection and without fail there are a bevy of young boys and girls with signs and cups begging for donations to their after school program or sports team or something. I don't really care what it is.
I get that there isn't adequate funding for programs that can keep young boys and girls in the neighborhood occupied and engaged. I get that. I get that it requires diligence and a lot of work to find capital to keep youth outreach centers open and keep them filled with qualified and involved staff. I even get that sports are positive ways to keep the seemingly boundless energy of children/young adults, focused and health oriented.
But here's the other perspective...
Day in a day out you are teaching these young black soon-to-be men and women that they can and should depend on the handouts or pity-cloaked generosity of passersby. I think that lesson has the potential to be as detrimental as the ills of society your program is trying to overcome.
My initial thought was... go across the street to one of the three or four gas stations and set up a car wash.
Earn operating capital for your program and subsequently teach lessons about work ethic, entrepreneurship, and determination. Maybe I'm out of touch and you can't do a gas station car wash anymore? Seriously, I'm not sure if this is just me being annoyed with the adults that stand in the grassy intersection median while their minions dash in-between captive audience vehicles and bean pie adorned Final Call vendors. It just irritates me. The other day, this girl, who couldn't have been a day over 12, leaned waist deep into my open passenger side window to ask me for a donation. She was way too comfortable relying on me to financially resolve her agenda.
First of all, shouldn't you be reading a book somewhere?... doing some homework?... helping your parents with dinner?... watching your little brother?.... How do you have time to work this intersection? Second, and more pressing to me...how can she not grow up and expect the same handout from her adult environment?
I think she deserves better.
One thing I've learned, however, is that every dummy with a blog and a mild tempered audience thinks that he or she is the be-all end-all of sound reasoning and socio-political thought. So lest I forget my place and become a panderer of finger pointing, I offer another approach.
Maybe they need help setting up the car wash?
We can't get anywhere as a people if those of us ideologues in the so called creative class are not willing to get our hands dirty and address real social issues in real time.
I'll let you know how it goes.