Today, driving along Rockville Pike, I witnessed a tragic paradox. As I waited, stopped at a stoplight, on one side of the street I saw three men twirling bright yellow signs in order to draw attention to some new condominiums. These men smiled and danced, tossed their signs in the air and spun around in order to draw attention.

On the other side, I saw a man in dirty clothes standing alone and holding another sign. He stood with his head hanging and his eyes downcast. His sign was old and worn, made with scribbled writing on rough cardboard.

On one corner, an invitation to strangers to come and buy. On the other, the humility of asking strangers for help.

One corner flashes a welcome and appeals to the needs and wants of others. The other quietly beckons for a listening ear and a little help – for the scraps from the drivers’ tables.

On one corner, the men stand in a group, socializing with one another in a socially acceptable job. On the other, a man stands as an outcast, left to fend for himself.

© 2008. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.