I had to make a stop at the ATM today to continue the Annual December Depletion Of The Monies, dragging MissSeven and Mr11 behind me in the dark rainy afternoon. Ten feet to right of the cash spewer is a Salvation Army bell ringer; ten feet to the left, a young man in a dirty parka leaning against the supermarket wall, smoking.

Little change little change little change little change…

“Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding…”

Little change little change spare change got any spare change…


The competition for my spare change – and they knew I had it, considering they watched me withdraw a wad from the ATM – was fierce, Bell Ringer vs. Panhandler. I gave each kid a buck and told them to pop it in the red metal bucket, even if just to stop the incessant ringing for a few seconds.

As we walked over to Starbucks to get a snack, MissSeven piped up.

“Mom, why did we give money to the one person and not the other person?”

I could have given her a long-winded talk about seasonal charities and the ever-widening social underclass and that there for a few paychecks could go us all, and the unpredictability of life, mental illness and more, but she was more interested in eating her Starbucks brownie so I kept it short. Short-ish, OK, OK.

“If I have some spare money to give, I like to give it to an organization where I know my money will help people who need food and clothes and shelter and such. The Salvation Army has been around a long time and they have a good structure. Sometimes people who are on the street have serious drug or alcohol problems; not all the time, but I still don’t want to take the chance that my money might go to buy someone things that are unhealthy for them and won’t help them get off the street. There’s just no way to know. It’s sad. There’s not a right or wrong answer about it; some people don’t feel like I do about it.”

Mr11 chimed in. “Why doesn’t that guy just get a job? He didn’t look sick to me.”

“Yeah!” MissSeven brightly concurred. “All he has to do it walk up to Microsoft or Taco Bell and ask, and I bet in a week he would have a job!”

I allowed myself to enjoy her vision for a moment, and then responded.

“Well, you have to be qualified to get certain kinds of jobs. And he might already have a job, but it doesn’t pay enough. It’s just not quite that simple.”

On the way back to the car with the coffee and brownies and pumpkin bread, we passed them again.

“Ding ding ding ding ding ding…”

Little change little change…

I nodded at him, thought about the teenager I saw yesterday holding a sign that said “Pregnant and Homeless” who got into a landscaping truck that pulled up next to her on the road, thought about how some things are predictable and how some are accidents of fate, and how some things, change little.