Narrowly escaped a good-deed faux pas today. It was brutally cold in Toronto (minus 21 C with wind chill factored in) — so cold it made your eyes water.
As I walked from the subway downtown, I spotted a man wearing a shabby parka, hood pulled way up, holding a paper cup.
He was standing on the corner, back against the building. I kept thinking how freezing he must be standing there trying to rustle up some spare change from passersby.
So I pulled some coins from my pocket and as I approached him, about to put the money in his cup, he took a sip from it.
Then I noticed the cigarette in his other hand. The guy wasn’t a panhandler at all. He was only standing outside the office building on a smoke break.
Slipped hand back in pocket and kept walking. Close call.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away ….
I saw someone who was not outside voluntarily.
A young guy with ginger hair and shaggy beard was sleeping on the pavement wrapped only in a light sleeping bag. His arms were outstretched, bare hands likely getting frostbitten.
Sitting above his head was a cardboard coffee shop tray and several empty Tim Horton’s cups. I walked around him, bent down and put some money in the tray. He didn’t move.
I didn’t know what else I could do. As I left I saw someone else walk over and put something in the tray. Still so cold it made my eyes water….
P.S. “Long, Long Time,” a warm blast from the past: