On the Corner

It’s one of the few days where my anxiousness doesn’t manifest when I’m getting on or off the highway–both transitions are seamless. I cruise along Claiborne and brake a touch to switch lanes to the right lane because my turn onto St. Roch is a half mile away. I like to be prepared.

It’s overcast. It’s Sunday. I keep my window wipers on even though there’s only been a few speckles of rain. I near the stoplight and I can’t believe it–ten girls, all under the age of fifteen, are darting through traffic with plastic cases begging for money from passengers waiting at the intersection. They all have matching mesh jerseys on, but there is no mention of the school or team they are collecting money for.

This is the corner of Elysian Fields and Claiborne–it’s one of the busiest intersections in New Orleans. To the right is the French Quarter and to the left is housing snaking off to Gentilly or down into St. Roch and eventually the Bywater. Working people are on their way to and from work–you can tell by the copious amounts of pick-up trucks with debris piled up high in the back.

Across the street is the infamous homeless intersection where I’ve seen for months now the same short, stocky homeless girl hop into and out of cars. Parallel to that intersection is another corner held down by another homeless person. The entire area is so populated by cars and passerby that there are always homeless people here begging for money at all times of day.

And someone thought it would be a great idea to bring a group of children, young girls, out here to do the same. On a Sunday morning.

My blood begins to boil–what kind of inconsiderate, reckless fool would go and send a bunch of children darting through traffic to collect money? And if they are actually collecting it for a team (which I feel horrible about having to question, but there is no team logo or mention of a school on any of their identifying clothing), what adult would possibly think this is a safe, reliable way to raise money? Why couldn’t they just organize an event through their school like a fundraiser, or contact a friend or family member who is a musician, or hook up with a club or a restaurant or something to raise money other than making these kids go out and beg with the other homeless people holding down the corners out here? I am enraged.

I don’t look out either window and wait for the light to turn green. There’s a knock on my passenger window, thump against glass. I look out. One girl looks at me and just holds up her empty plastic container. I hold up my hands. I don’t have anything, even if I wanted to give it. She purses her lips, rolls her eyes and keeps walking along the endless line of cars getting off of the highway waiting for the light to turn.

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