Street Smart



One of the things I love about living in a city is the rawness of urban life.

And by rawness, I mean that what you see throughout your daily life is not always wrapped in a pretty pink box with a turquoise bow on it.

Urban living forces you to view all the dichotomies of life, by placing them directly in front of your face.

I’ve seen everything from the most horrible acts of violence to witnessing the most sensitive gestures of kindness; all within the same day.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone with their pants down around their ankles; taking a leak on a building wall, while walking to work in the morning.

You also haven’t lived until you’ve seen a man standing on a street corner with a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome; screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to use the word fuck that many times in one sentence.

Nor have you lived until you’ve seen a woman walking next to you on the sidewalk SPIT; missing you by a quarter of an inch.

And that’s not even the half of it.

The trick to urban life is to not allow yourself to become so calloused that you are immune to noticing or caring.

For those of you who don’t live in a city, what I’m about to share may sound a bit harsh. But I guarantee that if you lived in a city you would have to learn how to be street smart, or be eaten up by people who are out there looking for a free ride.

And let me say that being someone who understands bankruptcy, I am totally compassionate to anyone who is genuinely in need.

After living in a city for a few years, you begin to sense the difference between those individuals who are asking for money; wanting it for alcohol or drugs, and those individuals who are sincerely destitute.

You notice the same young college students who repeatedly sit on the sidewalks with a sign in front of them that says, “Today is my birthday, could you please help me with money for food?” And what’s ironic about these same young college students, is that they’re sitting there smoking a pack of cigarettes and talking on their cell phones.

I don’t give money to everyone on the street who asks. I will only give money to those individuals who I feel in my heart to give to. Sometimes I will simply offer to buy them something to eat or drink.

Some may think that’s being judgmental. I think of it as being discerning.

Last Friday afternoon I was walking back from Trader Joe's. And as I got about two blocks from my apartment, I began to hear the sound of beautiful music coming from a saxophone. When I turned to look to my left, I saw a middle-aged man sitting on a portable little stool, playing his heart out on a saxophone. In front of him was a plastic bucket filled with a few bills. It took me a few seconds to notice that he was blind.

As the traffic light changed, I crossed the street and got about halfway down the block, when I heard a loud voice inside me say, “ Go back and give to that man.”

I only had a dollar left in my pocket, but I turned around and walked back across the street and up to this gentleman.

I said, “Hi, here you go (placing the bill in his bucket). And I just want to thank your for sharing your amazing talent.”

He said, “Thank you.”

I walked away with a huge lump in my throat.

Here was a man, who had only one thing to give to the world in the way of making money.

And he was out there doing it.

With all his heart.



48 comments

  1. Awwwww, Sweetie, you are making me tear up here.

    I know how big and beautiful your heart is. By your posts, by your emails, by some of your friends, who have become mine as well.

    Thank you for being so wonderful and so you. People like you make my journey sweeter.

    I always say we never know when our simple actions may make a difference in someones day. When we have an opportunity to be a secret angel. Today, like a lot of days, you were mine.

    xoxo
    ~vk~

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  2. My eyes filled up when I read the story of the blind man. I would have given to him but I am what you call 'discerning' about others. I'm not faced with it often since I live in the suburbs but I wonder how I would cope if I had to walk through city streets on a regular basis.
    I'm pleased to say that I learned new words today, dichotomies and Tourette, both of which are (thankfully) in my dictionary. Thanks for that, 'cause I like to learn new words. Have a good day.

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  3. I love this post! I love city living. If you can get through your days here, you can do anything. I really believe it.

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  4. What a sweet story. I love that about you. You are such a kind hearted man!

    I too hate when people are out there pan handling that don't need it. Of course in today's economy it's hard to tell the difference. When #2 was in Grady after her wreck we would go down several times a day to see her. One morning on my way to work I stopped by the hospital and was stopped by a gentleman with a sob story. I gave him a few bucks. TWO DAYS later hubby said he had given $10 to the same gentleman... who had said he was passing through....

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  5. Bonjour Ronnie,
    Its nice to start off a Monday with you :)
    I think that we can all relate to this post.
    In my lifetime,I have heard and seen enough "looniness" to last several lifetimes..
    There is something about big cities that attracts crazies!

    Here,we have our share of panhandlers too. a lot in the trains address the travelers,asking for handouts.The panhandlers that irk a lot of people are the gypsys.
    D&I saw one gypsy woman that moved about with a crutch,begging. We got off at our station and who sprints by us to catch the next train for Paris?Lame duck!

    I never was fooled but your tough city exterior,dude. Like your example with the sax player,there lies a heart of gold :)
    xoxo

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  6. Good Morning Vixen Kitten~

    " always say we never know when our simple actions may make a difference in someones day. When we have an opportunity to be a secret angel. Today, like a lot of days, you were mine."

    Ditto to you, dear one!

    As always, I thank you for stopping by and also for being such wonderful friend.

    Happy Monday!

    X to you and the Honey Girl!

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  7. Good Morning Valerie~

    "I would have given to him but I am what you call 'discerning' about others."

    I know you would have, dear lady. And I think it's very wise that you are 'discerning.' Good for you!

    Like I shared, when you live in a city, 24/7, you have to learn how to be street smart. So, I will only give money to thoughs people who I REALLY feel the call to give.

    "I'm pleased to say that I learned new words today, dichotomies and Tourette, both of which are (thankfully) in my dictionary."

    OMG...you haven't LIVED until you've witnessed Tourette's - HA!

    Thank you so much for stopping by, Valerie! You're a such a delight!

    Happy Monday!

    X

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  8. Good Morning Lora~

    "I love city living. If you can get through your days here, you can do anything. I really believe it."

    You said it! City living is definitely not for everyone. But for me, it's such an amazing education.

    Thank you for stopping by, my Philly friend!

    Always a pleasure!

    Have a wonderful Monday!

    X

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  9. Good Morning Peg~

    "One morning on my way to work I stopped by the hospital and was stopped by a gentleman with a sob story. I gave him a few bucks. TWO DAYS later hubby said he had given $10 to the same gentleman... who had said he was passing through...."

    When you live in a city 24/7, I think it's a bit easier to see those people who are simply pan handling for a free ride, and those people who are sincere. You begin to develope a sixth sense. And I've learned to listen to that sixth sense.

    Thanks a bunch for stopping by, my dear friend!

    Hope you're having a FAB Monday!

    X

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  10. Bonjour Barbara~

    "In my lifetime,I have heard and seen enough "looniness" to last several lifetimes..
    There is something about big cities that attracts crazies!"

    HAHAHAHAHA! You said it, Barb! Honestly? The crazies don't really bother me. I actually find them incredibly amusing.

    "D&I saw one gypsy woman that moved about with a crutch,begging. We got off at our station and who sprints by us to catch the next train for Paris?Lame duck!"

    SEE!! That's exactly what I'm talking about. Lame duck - HA!

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend! And thanks for your sweet words.

    Hope you're enjoying a great Monday!

    X to you and Didier!

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  11. What a touching post, Ron. You are a very compassionate soul. I also don't mind giving to those in need, but I also don't like being taken advantage of. Have a lovely day.

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  12. I don't live in a city as big as Philly is, but I do know exactly what you mean about the different things you can see in the course of a day.
    We have a neighbor who occasionally has a houseguest that the whole town knows by name. Some make fun of him, so feel sorry. There are times when he is friendly and other times you steer clear because he has an odd look about him. He seems to have a very hard life but I know his friend is just trying to help him when he can and then makes him go visit elsewhere at other times.
    We've got construction going on less than a block away but a nice park with a little pond up the road and local school teams playing sports. Sometimes you hear fire trucks and police but today, just some birds. And there are train tracks a few blocks away so at night it's nice to hear the distant train go by when I'm in bed.
    Some of the kids in town are pleasant and will hold a door for you and others you want to smack the crap out of for being ignorant. When my husband rides his bicycle at night sometimes he's gotten rude comments but all of our neighbors are some of the very nicest people and we all wave and chat with each other. And now, we have a squirrel (or maybe a couple of them as they do look alike, lol) come right up on our step to get treats. Of course we give him/her/ nuts and seeds.
    Yes, City living is very interesting.

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  13. Figuring out who is genuinely 'in need' rather than can't be bothered to earn money rather than beg is difficult. You did the right thing with the saxophone player Ron, I'm sure he appreciated it. x

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  14. Hi SuziCate~

    "I also don't mind giving to those in need, but I also don't like being taken advantage of."

    Ditto.

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend! Have a lovely Monday!

    X

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  15. Hiya Crystal Chick~

    "Yes, City living is very interesting."

    Isn't it? And I truly love it. I don't mind seeing the different extremes. Philly is not nearly as big as say, NYC, which OMG...is WAY more extreme. But it still has it's differences.

    I think it's so touching that your neighbor is helping his friend. What a guy!

    "And there are train tracks a few blocks away so at night it's nice to hear the distant train go by when I'm in bed."

    Oh me too, M! There is nothing like the sound of a distant train going by when you're sleeping. So soothing.

    "And now, we have a squirrel (or maybe a couple of them as they do look alike, lol) come right up on our step to get treats. Of course we give him/her/ nuts and seeds."

    ((( M )))

    You know me and my love of squirrels!

    Thanks a bunch for stopping by, neighbor!

    Hope you're feeling better. Have a great week!

    X

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  16. Hi Akelamalu~

    "Figuring out who is genuinely 'in need' rather than can't be bothered to earn money rather than beg is difficult."

    Yes, that's why I go by my feelings.

    Thanks for stopping by, m'dear! Hope you had a super weekend with your grandchildren!

    Have a great Monday!

    X

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  17. dearest ron, you continually amaze me with your ability to make me giggle and weep in the same 6 paragraphs(or so)...this was so beautiful to read, so inspiring and i too am so glad you gave to that music playing man... i too give when i can but not living in the city am sure i have been taken a time or two...many prefer to give food, like fruit or whatever but who always has an orange on them?? so i say always follow your heart, and that, my sweet man, is something you are very good at.

    now - i have been reading your blog right along even if i am not able to leave you anything in a comment-my entire hip goes into spasm with typing on my laptop and if i am in bed, which lately, well, anyway... it seems the "tone" of your posts are changing in a very subtle way, a revealing way as well. You seem to want to tell us more about the ron behind the vent, if you know what i mean...anyway, sweets, i am loving it and so glad you are in my life. thank you so much for sticking with me, always there with a kind word and a smile. it means the world to me. xoxo

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  18. Hellooooo Linda~

    "i too am so glad you gave to that music playing man..."

    This was one of those times when I could feel it was the thing to do. That's when I know it's right - when I feel "it". Other times I don't, so I don't. If someone is out there on the street doing something; making an effort, my heart goes out to them. It's the way this gentleman was giving it his ALL that moved me beyond words. It was like he was an angel.

    My dear friend, I know you read my blog and comment when you can, so please know that LOVE whenever you stop by. It's a joy to see you anytime.

    "it seems the "tone" of your posts are changing in a very subtle way, a revealing way as well. You seem to want to tell us more about the ron behind the vent, if you know what i mean...anyway, sweets, i am loving it."

    I try not to analyze why I write what I share on this blog. I just share it. Sometimes it's humor, other times it's more reflective, and sometimes it's a little of both. And yes, perhaps the "tone" of my posts are changing. But, they're changing as I'm changing. That's the fabulous thing about a blog, it evolves, grows, and expands as the years move on; revealing the soul of the writer.

    And I'm so glad you're enjoying it!

    Thank you sooo much for stopping by and for your sweet and supportive words, Linda!

    I'm so glad you're in my life too!

    ((((( Linda )))))

    Hope you had a beautiful day!

    xoxoxoxoxo

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  19. You're a good fella.

    Libra's are like that, when they grow up a bit.....discerning but smart enough to listen to that huge voice within.
    It's how I can sleep at nights.
    Certainly not MY doings alone, trust me.

    Thank you.
    I'll pay more attention to that voice inside because of this one.
    And trust me when I say "I've been needing to."

    *hugs*

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  20. Hiya Mel~

    "Libra's are like that, when they grow up a bit.....discerning but smart enough to listen to that huge voice within.

    It's how I can sleep at nights."

    You said it, my fellow Libra friend! And it's taken me YEARS to learn to listen to that voice and then FOLLOW that voice.

    "Certainly not MY doings alone, trust me."

    Me neither, trust me. I so know what you mean.

    Thanks oddles for stopping by today, dear lady!

    Hope you had a maaaaaaaaavalous Monday!

    *hugs*

    X

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  21. awh ron, don't make me tear up. loved this post, it was like a good book, something you don't want to end.

    i must say i work with these people:

    You also haven’t lived until you’ve seen a man standing on a street corner with a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome; screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to use the word fuck that many times in one sentence.

    isn't it amazing how blind people can do everything we seeing people say we can't. they put me to shame some times.

    thanks for sharing.

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  22. Hey Val~

    awww...thank you. You're so dang sweet!

    So, you know what I'm talking about when it comes to Tourette's? Isn't it lovely to listen to? HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!

    "isn't it amazing how blind people can do everything we seeing people say we can't. they put me to shame some times."

    You said it, girl. Put me to shame some times.

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

    Hope you had a Tourette's-free day!

    X

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  23. Hi Ron

    When I was a teenager I often went downtown from my suburban neighbourhood. I walked many a street and saw many a person. One day I passed a young man similar in age to myself. He was panning for money for an assassination fund for the present Prime Minister. I laughed and had to dig for a bit of change. When I passed him again later, he convinced me to go for a beer and a friendship was born that led to many more friendships with other street youths. They all had their hard-luck stories, but I treated them normal. For some it was the first time that true kindnesses were shown to them. For me it was a given cursory. We all gained, me with the view of potential other lives and them for a brush with what could be.
    I too don't give to everyone, but try to do what I can. Your compassion always speaks legions Ron. You are a good man.

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  24. Hello Dear Katherine~

    OMG...your comment made me feel very emotional!

    What a BEAUTIFUL story! And I bet you have LOTS of them!

    "We all gained, me with the view of potential other lives and them for a brush with what could be."

    (((( Katherine ))))

    "Your compassion always speaks legions Katherine. You are a good lady."

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Enjoy your evening!
    X

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  25. Damn, this is ironic. I'm from Chicago. I moved away from there several years ago, but my sister still lives there, and so did my Mom until she passed last February. I go back pretty often to visit relatives. This past weekend, I was back and I ended up right downtown, on a street I frequented as a younger man. All you describe was there. I fit right in and actually wondered what it would be like to live there again. You can take the man out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the man. I felt right at home. And my Chicago accent came back as I was waiting outside for a table, talking with others. I even gave directions to a motorist stopped at the light. (I drove truck in Chicago years ago).
    My roots are urban and I am glad I have seen all sides.
    I also wonder about those asjing for money. Who are the ones truly in need and who is maiking a living by begging. Then again, isn't that a "job" itself? Not for me to decide. I only have gut feelings as there is never enough time to stop and interview everyone asking for a handout.

    Peace.

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  26. You're a beautiful person, Ron. I love this post because it's so true. You do see people that are trying to take advantage, not just in the city, and those that truly need just something, anything to get by. That you heart told you to share with a person that shared with you without asking, shows how beautiful you are.

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  27. Paris is like New York - lots of folks with lots of stories. Lots of needs. A wealth of fanciness, and a huge helping of suffering. Side by side.

    I try to care. I show compassion with a gentle face and give a luncheon voucher when my heart tells me to.

    I hope I will never be immune to others' needs. Ever.

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  28. Howdy Spadoman~

    "You can take the man out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the man."

    You said it, sir!

    "My roots are urban and I am glad I have seen all sides."

    Me too! It's not always easy to look at, but it's life in every possible way. All extremes and everything in between.

    "I only have gut feelings as there is never enough time to stop and interview everyone asking for a handout."

    Exactly.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing on this post, bud! ALWAYS enjoyed!

    Have an awesome day!

    X

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  29. Hello Nitebyrd~

    Having come from NY, I know you completely understand what I mean by "street smart". Living in a city teaches you to listen to that "voice."

    And you're right, it's not just in the city. It's everywhere.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing on this post, Sis!

    Have a FAB Tuesday!

    X ya!

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  30. Bonjour Susu~

    "Paris is like New York - lots of folks with lots of stories. Lots of needs. A wealth of fanciness, and a huge helping of suffering. Side by side."

    You said it perfectly, Susu. Both extremes, side by side.

    "I try to care. I show compassion with a gentle face and give a luncheon voucher when my heart tells me to."

    I don't think you could ever be immune to others' needs; you're such a sweet soul.

    ((( Susu )))

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing on this post, beautiful lady!

    Have a GREAT day!

    X

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  31. I am like you especially when it comes to handouts and those who really need it, there was a man in the town we moved from who was standing on the corner with a sign stating he was out of gas and needing money to get home on, his story was that he was passing through and had ran out of money right here, sad thing is I recognized him as a local man who worked harder at getting out of work Ha Ha

    I am proud you went back to the man playing the sax, he would be one I would not have a problem donating to.

    Excellent Post Buddy!

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  32. Howdy Jimmy~

    "his story was that he was passing through and had ran out of money right here, sad thing is I recognized him as a local man who worked harder at getting out of work."

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....you GO, Jimmy!

    As I shared, I have no problem helping people out with some money or food. But, it's the ones I can "sense" are not sincere, I will not.

    Oh, you would have SO enjoyed this guy playing the sax. Not only could he make that sax talk, but he did it with such passion!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing, buddy! Always enjoyed!

    Hope you had a super Tuesday!

    X to you and Cindy!

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  33. Aw. Ronnie! You just made my eyes well up with tears. I love you and your huge heart.

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  34. 'discerning' is the exact right word
    it's not judgement
    if they students on their phone can scam others to get money - well, OK - that's on them

    I'll save my money for the people I feel truly need whatever I can share

    You have reminded me of a few NYC street stories
    I'm going to make a note and do some posts about them
    thanks for the inspiration

    love ya

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  35. Hello Meleah~

    Love ya too, my Libra friend!

    ((( Meleah )))

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you had terrific Tuesday!

    X

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  36. Hello Lady Dianne~

    "I'll save my money for the people I feel truly need whatever I can share."

    Right on! And it's funny, because I've gotten to the point where I can just tell when someone truly needs help. And I'll help them.

    "You have reminded me of a few NYC street stories..."

    OMG....I bet you have some faaaaabulous street stories to share about NYC! Can't WAIT to read them!

    As always, I so appreciate you stopping by, dear lady!

    X and hugs to you and the gang!

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  37. I can imagine a guy wearing an Armani suit and matching power tie with his pants down around his ankles relieving himself as he's walking to work, checking his Blackberry to see if he's late for any important meetings. But I'm guessing you probably saw a bum doing this instead. Pity...

    And as for the Saxophone player, good one for donating to the cause. That's some good karma you're working on there!

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  38. Hey Herman~

    "I can imagine a guy wearing an Armani suit and matching power tie with his pants down around his ankles relieving himself as he's walking to work, checking his Blackberry to see if he's late for any important meetings. But I'm guessing you probably saw a bum doing this instead. Pity..."

    Bwhahhahahahhahahaha! OMG, that was BRILLIANT! And you're right...it was a bum. Pity...

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy! Hope you had a great day!

    X to you and your family!

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  39. FACT: my pants were down around my ankles in a parking lot last weekend after leaving a bar.

    apparently, i could NOT make it to the car.

    I say apparently, cus I don't remember making this cognitive decision.

    apparently, i still had enough reasoning not to use the bar bathroom.

    and it was a good idea until a car full of boys rolled up.

    p.s. i don't live in a city.

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  40. Morning Blunt~

    "apparently, i still had enough reasoning not to use the bar bathroom.

    and it was a good idea until a car full of boys rolled up."

    HAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You KILL me, girl!

    I bet they enjoyed it too - woo! woo!

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend! Always a HOOT!

    Have a great Wednesday!

    X

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  41. Bravo to you for being discerning. Give if and when you are inspired to do so. The crazy thing about democracy in our society is that free speech gives anyone the right to ask for what they need and/or want. And you and I get the opportunity to take those requests under advisement.

    I've worked in the nonprofit side of the world for 7 years now and my vantage point today is much different than it was 7 years ago.

    But, I've had 7 additional years of living experience too. And have never seen anyone peeing on a building. Although once, I did see a man peeing on the jogging trail by the side of a busy street in the middle of the afternoon.
    :)
    One of the odd things about Houston is that 95% of the urban pedestrian traffic is underground in the tunnel system. It is such a different world from that which you describe!

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  42. Helloooo Diane~

    "The crazy thing about democracy in our society is that free speech gives anyone the right to ask for what they need and/or want. And you and I get the opportunity to take those requests under advisement."

    Exactly....advisement.

    "Although once, I did see a man peeing on the jogging trail by the side of a busy street in the middle of the afternoon."

    HAHHAHAHAHAHA! Isn't it amazing the things you see?

    "One of the odd things about Houston is that 95% of the urban pedestrian traffic is underground in the tunnel system. It is such a different world from that which you describe!"

    One of the things I've noticed about the cities here on the eastcoast is that they're much more raw and rougher. The extremes are VERY extreme. NYC is probably the most extreme I've ever witnessed. But for some crazy reason, I don't mind it. I actually enjoy it.

    Thank so much for stopping by and sharing on this post, dear lady! I ALWAYS enjoy reading your thoughts and feelings.

    Hope you had a super Wednesday!

    X

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  43. I lived in Philly for a long time and can honestly say I've seen all those things along with several others. On some level, I had to put blinders on and learn how not to take it all in otherwise the everyday sadnesses and strife would have gotten to me.
    I rarely give to anyone on the street partly as I live in the middle of the suburbs and partly as I too try to be discerning. But, when your heart speaks you need to do what it says.

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  44. Hiya Jen~

    "I lived in Philly for a long time and can honestly say I've seen all those things along with several others."

    Isn't city living something? You witness every extreme possible.

    "But, when your heart speaks you need to do what it says."

    Right on!

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

    X

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  45. Hi Ron! Yes I am still very much alive and obviously very much behind here- my you have been busy (or has that much time really passed)...

    What a great analogy of your city. Even though I live in a very small town I see quite a bit of similarities in your descriptions of the people you observe.

    We just returned from the Bahamas and the hubby was making fun of me because I was running around giving dollar bills to a lot of the locals. He kept saying "You aren't that generous with people at home, what's your deal?"

    Well there's just something about the people in other less 'well-off' places than the states that when you see them out there and really trying you just want to lend a helping hand.

    And I CAN be nice once in awhile too! (shhh...that's our little secret though!)

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  46. Hellooooooo Jan~

    Grrrrrreat to see ya! OMG...you've been in the BAHAMAS????? How faaaaaabulous!

    Yes, I've been very busy. Now, with our fall season starting my hours keep increasing. But, I'm so glad for the work.

    "Well there's just something about the people in other less 'well-off' places than the states that when you see them out there and really trying you just want to lend a helping hand."

    awwww...aren't you a sweetheart! My mother said the same thing when she was in Mexico. She was always handing them money AND food.

    Thanks a bunch for stopping by, Jan! Always a delight!

    Have a wonderful Labor Day!

    X

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  47. Well expressed and beautifully written. I also agree that the distinction between those who need it and often do not ask for anything, and those who make a career out of it becomes apparent with experience.
    http://citcomedy.blogspot.com

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  48. Greetings Citcomedian~

    Welcome! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share a comment. Nice to meet you.

    "I also agree that the distinction between those who need it and often do not ask for anything, and those who make a career out of it becomes apparent with experience."

    You said it! City life developes your sense of intuition. And I've learned to listen to it.

    Please stop by anytime. You're always welcome!

    Enjoy your evening!

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