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“Does anyone have any spare change to buy me dinner?”

A timid voice shakes me out of my milkshake-and-grilled-cheese reverie as I head out of Tom’s Diner at 11 p.m.

My hazel eyes settle on a petite African-American girl, clad in a t-shirt and shorts, shivering slightly under a bus station waiting booth.

I clear the image out of my mind. Just like thousands of New Yorkers do, every day.
But the voice still echoes in my ears, the faint cry still audible as I walk further away.
I know I have much more money than this girl does. And I don’t need all of it for myself.
I could definitely spare some to help the poor teenager out, right?

“C’mon, lets go give her something.”

As my friend and I return to the girl, warnings of beggars on the street fill my head, tales of the money being used for drugs and alcohol soon accompanying them. But my conscience stifles the sirens on my brain in one fell swoop.
Having just come from the Broadway production “In the Heights,” I recall the stories of the citizens of Washington Heights, and their lower quality of life.
What if this girl is a hardworking, innocent, kind person who truly cannot afford a bite to eat?
I can’t just ignore her, and walk guiltily away out of a diner, can I?

And she definitely has a worse life than I do.

A wave of relief washes over me as I sift through the contents of my purse, zeroing on my wallet and grabbing a fistful of coins.

Handing over the money, I see, whether in reality or from my mind, gratitude in the teenage girl’s eyes.

Seriously, I’m such a good person. I did a good deed, a mitzvah, a selfless act.
“You’re too nice!” my friend remarks as we walk away.

But then I turn around, and the girl is still standing in the same place, issuing the same plea.
Maybe she doesn’t have enough money for dinner yet?

How much has she raised?
Isn’t two dollars enough for something small at Tom’s?

I hope I wasn’t one of those gullible, kind-hearted people who see the world through rainbows and butterflies, and are ridiculously easy to deceive.
Who knows?
Maybe I really am too nice.





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the_Horsegirl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm
This is a very interesting piece. It very accurately depicts a moral struggle; I like how it shows that nothing is black-and-white. Keep writing!
 
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