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Marolt: A haunting reflection in an eddy of human flow

Roger Marolt

It left me profoundly sad in the midst of triumphant joy. As we followed the flow of tens of thousands Bronco fans meandering from the stadium to the delta of parking lots near lower downtown, we passed beneath a viaduct holding I-25, the more rapid flow of humanity, above us. There was a young man standing near the embankment holding a sign that read, “Kick me in the balls for $5.” Tucked up near the top of the concrete slope mostly hidden by I-beams were several other young people watching for the success of his sales pitch.

It was a game for the ages; the home team prevailing in a playoff game that wasn’t put away until a few seconds remained on the clock. With random whoops and chants of “Super Bowl” occupying the collective heart and lung of the huge crowd moving past, I don’t think many noticed the kid with the dark, sunken eyes, tattered clothes, and melancholy, pleading smile holding the awful contract that proposed monetary gain at an incredible physical sacrifice and humiliation of the human being.

In the instant the heavy drift of the masses carried me past the scene, an overwhelming feeling of regret consumed me. I should have given the kid some money. Fatherly instinct had something to do with it. I had spent the entire incredible day with my son, about the same age and still walking with me, our shoulders touching in the mob. That boy has a father, too. I felt like I missed an opportunity to help them both.



I may be naive, but I’m not stupid. I’m pretty sure the kid and his companions were serious drug addicts living on the streets. While he was most likely hungry, his desperation was not for food. If I had slipped him 20 bucks, it most likely would have gone towards a hit of smack, crack, or crank.

“If I looked that kid under the bridge in the eyes and smiled as I handed him 20 bucks when he was prepared to get kicked in the balls for five, he would have been recognized by another human being. I know he wasn’t going to get sober. I know that I am not going to change him right then or maybe even ever. But, had I given that person some attention, he might have recognized a flicker of compassion in a world he somehow became detached from, or that systemically became blind to him.”


I grew up with the rule that you don’t give panhandlers money because they will only use it to buy booze or drugs. You’re not doing them any favors by economically sponsoring the dangerous habits that likely put them in the positions they are in now and may kill them eventually. You could prove it to yourself, if you wanted. Offer to take them to McDonald’s to buy them a hamburger and see what they say. I don’t know anyone who has done this, but I accepted it as truth.



Here’s the thing, though; these kids are going to get their fixes whether I give them money or not. It is the objective that dictates their existence. They cannot do without it. The need controls them, not the other way around.

Another way to look at it is that, since I didn’t give that poor kid a little help, he is now left to get the money he needs by letting some ruthless sadist kick him in the groin. It’s terrifying to think where that could lead when you are making deals with the violent maniacs who would enter into that kind of bargain with nothing but laughs or bloodlust motivating them to take up the offer.

Some of the other options for that kid to get the money he needs include mugging someone, burglary, and prostitution. What are the costs to society and to the dignity of the human being with any of these scenarios?

Am I suggesting that it is humane to give street people money to spend on drugs and alcohol? Could that be taken a step further to support setting up shelters where desperate addicts could obtain their substances for free, along with a sandwich, administered to them under supervised and controlled conditions by medically trained professionals to monitor them, give them health advice, and maybe some compassionate human contact? Well, yes, maybe so.

The truth is that we pretty much ignore desperate people. Most of them will die alone in the pitiful condition we see them in every day. Most will not get better left to their own devices.

If I looked that kid under the bridge in the eyes and smiled as I handed him 20 bucks when he was prepared to get kicked in the balls for five, he would have been recognized by another human being. I know he wasn’t going to get sober. I know that I am not going to change him right then or maybe even ever. But, had I given that person some attention, he might have recognized a flicker of compassion in a world he somehow became detached from, or that systemically became blind to him.

Roger Marolt doesn’t believe charitable acts are ever wrong if they are made with good intentions. roger@maroltllp.com


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Marolt: A haunting reflection in an eddy of human flow

Roger Marolt

It left me profoundly sad in the midst of triumphant joy. As we followed the flow of tens of thousands Bronco fans meandering from the stadium to the delta of parking lots near lower downtown, we passed beneath a viaduct holding I-25, the more rapid flow of humanity, above us. There was a young man standing near the embankment holding a sign that read, “Kick me in the balls for $5.” Tucked up near the top of the concrete slope mostly hidden by I-beams were several other young people watching for the success of his sales pitch.

It was a game for the ages; the home team prevailing in a playoff game that wasn’t put away until a few seconds remained on the clock. With random whoops and chants of “Super Bowl” occupying the collective heart and lung of the huge crowd moving past, I don’t think many noticed the kid with the dark, sunken eyes, tattered clothes, and melancholy, pleading smile holding the awful contract that proposed monetary gain at an incredible physical sacrifice and humiliation of the human being.

In the instant the heavy drift of the masses carried me past the scene, an overwhelming feeling of regret consumed me. I should have given the kid some money. Fatherly instinct had something to do with it. I had spent the entire incredible day with my son, about the same age and still walking with me, our shoulders touching in the mob. That boy has a father, too. I felt like I missed an opportunity to help them both.





I may be naive, but I’m not stupid. I’m pretty sure the kid and his companions were serious drug addicts living on the streets. While he was most likely hungry, his desperation was not for food. If I had slipped him 20 bucks, it most likely would have gone towards a hit of smack, crack, or crank.

“If I looked that kid under the bridge in the eyes and smiled as I handed him 20 bucks when he was prepared to get kicked in the balls for five, he would have been recognized by another human being. I know he wasn’t going to get sober. I know that I am not going to change him right then or maybe even ever. But, had I given that person some attention, he might have recognized a flicker of compassion in a world he somehow became detached from, or that systemically became blind to him.”


“If I looked that kid under the bridge in the eyes and smiled as I handed him 20 bucks when he was prepared to get kicked in the balls for five, he would have been recognized by another human being. I know he wasn’t going to get sober. I know that I am not going to change him right then or maybe even ever. But, had I given that person some attention, he might have recognized a flicker of compassion in a world he somehow became detached from, or that systemically became blind to him.”




I grew up with the rule that you don’t give panhandlers money because they will only use it to buy booze or drugs. You’re not doing them any favors by economically sponsoring the dangerous habits that likely put them in the positions they are in now and may kill them eventually. You could prove it to yourself, if you wanted. Offer to take them to McDonald’s to buy them a hamburger and see what they say. I don’t know anyone who has done this, but I accepted it as truth.



Here’s the thing, though; these kids are going to get their fixes whether I give them money or not. It is the objective that dictates their existence. They cannot do without it. The need controls them, not the other way around.

Another way to look at it is that, since I didn’t give that poor kid a little help, he is now left to get the money he needs by letting some ruthless sadist kick him in the groin. It’s terrifying to think where that could lead when you are making deals with the violent maniacs who would enter into that kind of bargain with nothing but laughs or bloodlust motivating them to take up the offer.

Some of the other options for that kid to get the money he needs include mugging someone, burglary, and prostitution. What are the costs to society and to the dignity of the human being with any of these scenarios?

Am I suggesting that it is humane to give street people money to spend on drugs and alcohol? Could that be taken a step further to support setting up shelters where desperate addicts could obtain their substances for free, along with a sandwich, administered to them under supervised and controlled conditions by medically trained professionals to monitor them, give them health advice, and maybe some compassionate human contact? Well, yes, maybe so.

The truth is that we pretty much ignore desperate people. Most of them will die alone in the pitiful condition we see them in every day. Most will not get better left to their own devices.

If I looked that kid under the bridge in the eyes and smiled as I handed him 20 bucks when he was prepared to get kicked in the balls for five, he would have been recognized by another human being. I know he wasn’t going to get sober. I know that I am not going to change him right then or maybe even ever. But, had I given that person some attention, he might have recognized a flicker of compassion in a world he somehow became detached from, or that systemically became blind to him.

Roger Marolt doesn’t believe charitable acts are ever wrong if they are made with good intentions. roger@maroltllp.com


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


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