A Helping Hand

By Allan-Michael Brown

Do you ever get frustrated with your life? Of course you do, you’re alive! I guess my question is: Do you ever feel like everything in your life is going wrong despite doing everything right? For example, do you ever find yourself waking up on time, arriving at a T stop on time but the T is behind schedule, rendering you late for work? Do you ever realize that despite spending four years at an accredited university, you find yourself at a dead-end job while your friend from high school ends up getting a promotion, making a six-figure salary? Well, if you ever felt this way or if you can empathize, this is how I felt yesterday.

Yesterday, I met up with my friend, Laura for coffee. We met at a Starbucks on the corner of Longwood and Avenue Louis Pasteur.  She had been in town doing research at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. I haven’t seen her since late April. After several minutes of chitchat, I couldn’t help but tell her my dilemma. I told her that thanks to this oh-so-wonderful economy, student loans were becoming more difficult to obtain, especially without a cosigner. Last year, I was able to get a signature student loan without a cosigner, but this year, it’s practically impossible despite my credit score going up this past year. After going on for about ten minutes, I told her that I had a back up plan even though I didn’t—I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining. The truth is, I know not what to do. I have no one to cosign for my student loan for the fall. I am on the verge of a complete crisis that may force me to drop out. After 3 years of studying and working hard, I may be forced to drop out—with nothing to show for it but a pile of student debt. I wonder if many college students are facing this dilemma.

After quickly changing the subject from my college crisis, I vowed to meet up next week to make sure we don’t go two months without seeing each other again. As Laura and I parted ways from the coffee shop, I began to walk down Longwood toward Huntington Avenue to catch the T. It was cloudy and rain was beginning to drizzle from the sky. As I walked, I saw a canvasser in a bright, red T-shirt straight ahead of me. I quickly grabbed my phone, pretending to check my text messages so she wouldn’t even talk to me. Naturally she talked to me anyway. She did the whole spiel of “Hey sir, Can I just have a moment of your time?” That’s the oldest trick in the book. I was a canvasser myself once, for MASSPIRG—I know all of the icebreaker questions to get people to talk to you. I replied to her, “I’m sorry; I’m a broke college student. I don’t have any money. I was a canvasser once so I wish you well.” I kept walking and she said, “I don’t want your money, I just want you to listen.” In that instant, I thought of a five reasons not to stand there and listen—the rain was drizzling down and my lack of an umbrella were at the top of the list. But for some weird reason, I listened. I’m not sure why. It could have been her pretty smile or it could have been the fact that I needed to get my mind off my financial woes. Whatever the reason, I listened.

The canvasser’s name is Jackie and she works for “Save the Children.” I typically see “Save the Children” canvassers all over Boston, more so around Copley, particularly in front of the Boston Public Library. Anyway, Jackie told me—in under one minute everything one would want to know about “Save the Children.” I was actually surprised to find out that with “Save the Children,” for every donation, 92% of the donation goes directly to a child in need (the rest goes to administrative and delivery expenses). Also, “Save the Children” helps not only children in 3rd world countries but also children here in the United States.

Then Jackie asked me where I went to school. After telling her that I go to MCPHS, she responded with “Ugh, I don’t like MCPHS. They didn’t accept me.” I told her that the school wasn’t as grand as it seemed (especially since I cannot get anymore financial aid). I asked her where she goes to school. Jackie attends Suffolk University on a full scholarship. She said she was very fortunate to attend a school on full scholarship, and although she has her own financial problems, she still gives a dollar a day to “Save the Children.” When I told her that I couldn’t donate anything, she said it was perfectly fine and she thanked me for listening to her. Jackie assured me that she’s just as content getting the word out as she would have been getting a donation. She said that it makes her day just to talk to someone instead of being ignored. We shook hands and wished each other good luck.

It began to rain as I continued my path down Longwood to Huntington Avenue for the T. I thought about what had just happened. There was a girl, like myself when I canvassed devoted to helping those less fortunate than herself. I wanted to turn around and give a one-time donation but the rain was coming down so I decided to run to the T. It was almost a certainty that I would see a “Save the Children” canvasser again somewhere in Boston, so it was no rush. As I approached the T, I saw a man begging for some spare change. I gave him a dollar. I know that a dollar would do a great deal for him than for me at the moment. It was in that moment that I realized that there are always people who are doing better than others. My problems could be worse. I could be that man begging in the street. I could be one of many starving children, like the ones “Save the Children” is dedicated to helping. Sometimes our problems are beyond our control—like my college financial situation. However, giving a helping hand is never beyond our control. All it takes is an open heart, or better yet—an open ear to give or receive a helping hand.

So the next time you see a canvasser on the streets of Boston, listen to them. You never know what you could do for the world, or what they can do for you.



Flickr Photo Courtesy of oooh.oooh
Flickr Photo Courtesy of oooh.oooh


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Comments (3)

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  1. Allegra Leone says:

    Wow, this was really an eye opening article Allan. Because I always tend to dwell on my problems or my friends problems and never for even a second think about people who probably have it worse that us. I should remember that there are people who aren’t in school and who don’t even have a place to live or food to eat and I should be thankful that I do. This definitely sounded like it was a nice and pleasant experience for you and I’m proud of you for you putting your problems aside to help someone who is in greater need of help.

  2. Asta Sharman says:

    My sister recently visited Boston with her partner and found the city to be an incredibly experience. As with all cities however there are always the less fortunate.

    Your article has really struck a cord with me, getting caught-up in the day to day trials we all face, I know I tend to walk with blinkers on some days.

    Thankyou for waking me up alittle and letting me appreciate today!

  3. allanmb says:

    I’m so glad that this helped you! It is always important to appreciate today for what it is because, as you can see–you’ll never know when you can receive a helping hand 🙂

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