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An Open Letter to the Family on the Corner 

April 18, 2016 4 Comments

I don’t know you. I don’t know anything about you. But I think about you all the time. I first noticed you standing there a couple weeks ago, holding a sign that said you needed help with rent. You were both there. I assumed you were married. I remembered thinking that you didn’t look like the typical people who stand outside on a corner asking for help, and I remember thinking to myself that I had seen so many of “you” lately.

I wondered what your story was. You both looked healthy and pleasant to me, and your clothes appeared clean. In my head you had taken the bus to that corner, because I didn’t see any cars parked by. I started thinking of excuses in my head that would prevent you from going out and getting a job instead of standing outside all day. You both looked like you were able to work. The bookstore, for instance, was hiring; and conveniently located right across the street from where you both stood. I knew this because I had just visited there and noticed the sign out front. Surely any income would help go to your monthly rent payment?

You were the one holding the sign, and your “wife” stood by you, holding onto your arm, smiling and waving at everyone that drove by. It was peculiar. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

When I drove back by later that day, on my way home from work, I noticed you were both still there. This time, a boy who I assumed to be your son, was sitting on the corner with you. I remember catching my breath for a moment at the site of this beautiful boy. I guessed his age to be not much older than eight or nine, although I’m not very good at that. The three of you spent the majority of the weekend on that corner, I’m guessing, because I frequent that area quite a bit and noticed you each and every time.

I’ve seen you all there a handful of times since. All three of you in the late afternoons, when I assume your son is finished with school for the day. I’ve seen the three of you there when it is cold and raining, and I worry that he won’t have dry clothes to put on. I worry that maybe his classmates will drive by with their parents and see him sitting there, playing in the grass, and I worry about how that will affect him at school. I worry about what example you’re setting for him. I worry about what his time is like away from the public eye; where do you go? Do you still have possession of your home that you need help with the rent for? Is he hungry? Are you responsible parents? What do you tell him when it’s time to visit the corner? Does he understand what purpose it serves? Is he safe? Is he loved?

Why are you choosing to spend your days asking for spare change instead of applying for jobs? Is it wrong that I am asking that question? You see, I notice anyone standing with a street sign. I notice them and I don’t often offer anything of my own other than a prayer. Lately, it’s gotten hard for me to even do that. There are people with signs everywhere. Have we really gone that down-hill as a society that this is the last resort, or are that many more people just wanting a hand-out? When did my heart get so hard to even think that other than feeling empathetic?

I am sorry for whatever bout of bad luck you’ve stumbled upon that this is the way you’re having to live your lives. Most of all, I feel for your son. He shouldn’t have to spend his days on the corner of a busy intersection while his parents ask for money from those driving by. He should be in sports. He should be running around with his team, getting dirty and having fun. He should be doing his homework, and bartering for an after dinner snack and a later bedtime so he can watch one more episode of his favorite TV show. He should be at home; not sitting on the corner getting soaking wet during a rainstorm. Safe between four walls. While his mother cooks and his father teaches him about his favorite sports. I don’t care how cliché it sounds. Your son should be enjoying his childhood, not sitting on a corner pulling at the grass for hours at a time. Maybe you understand that. Maybe those are your hopes for him, and maybe this is your only way.

Whatever your story is, I hope things turn around for you. I know you weren’t at the corner today; I know because I looked for you. I thought today might be the day that I pull over and have a conversation with you. Regardless, I will continue to pray for your son. I hope that God strengthens him. I hope that he’s able to make something good out of this; to grow up and do well not only for himself but for others. I hope that corner never defines him. He has the potential to do anything. I hope that you see that.

April 22, 2016



  1. Reply

    Tamara Hook

    April 18, 2016

    I’ve seen them. I’ve wondered about them. And I feel bad for them! I will pray for them! I’ve given money to some that hold up signs only to find out later it was a scam. I’ve taken a couple into a restaurant and paid for their lunch and given them the same amount to buy supper with! I’ve paid for someone’s groceries that didn’t quite have enough and was clearly embarrassed. I don’t comment to get praise from anyone I’m just commenting that we all need to have a heart and follow what I believe God directs us to do if he IS directing you! It’s a shame that some are just scammers. That makes even me Leary of helping!

    • Reply


      April 18, 2016

      Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying they are scammers. The whole thing just makes me incredibly sad. I don’t know their story. Maybe there’s a reason why they need so much help and maybe there’s a reason why they’re not working or can’t work, or maybe they both work nights and it’s still not enough. I don’t know. It just breaks my heart that their little boy has to be a part of it.

  2. Reply

    Leslie Odefey

    April 18, 2016

    Though we may not agree on everything, this post was the exact conversation I had today. I pass that family many times, I have given them money. It breaks my heart beyond any words I can explain that they would bring their innocent child to beg for money. Saturday as we drove past I told Paige I was going to stop and give them money. She looked at me and said, mom THEY are choosing to be out there when they could be spending time looking for a job. With misty eyes I drove by. All I want to do is take that little boy home and give him jeans that aren’t high waters, let him run and play with my son. Give him a good meal that doesn’t come from a gas station. Let him grow up to know that if you work hard good things will happen in your life. From one mother to another thank you for this.

    • Reply


      April 18, 2016

      It’s very true. I think we all can look at moments in our life where maybe we would take back something we said or we did.. I think we all want what is best for our families and our children.. And this just breaks my heart. Whatever it was that happened in their life lead them to this. Poor decisions? Bad luck? I’m not even sure it matters because the end result is the same.. And that little boy is the one paying for it. I hope very much that he is well cared for despite what we see. Thank you for commenting. It really means a lot to me ❤️



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