With friends like that, who needs strangers?

Yesterday a good friend of mine posted a video to Facebook that sparked lively debate between us. A woman on foot tries to escape the camera. She approaches a car, a Mini Cooper, as if it is hers, then walks away from the car toward a fast food restaurant drive-thru window, where she seeks help from the attendant.  She does not shield her face. A man films her. You do not see him, but his is the most audible presence. Over and over he questions the woman, accuses her. The description of the video reads, “Woman posing as homeless gets exposed.”

People react to panhandling according to their frames. I drive past someone panhandling and am reminded to practice gratitude for what I have. I choose trust and grace, not least because it makes me feel good. Others frame differently.

This post isn’t really about panhandling, though. Or about mine and my friend’s lively debate. It’s about what she said near the end of the thread, “Thanks for not deleting me over this.”

“Really?” I said.

Social media makes it easy to build walls around ourselves. Our opinions, even if well-informed, just echo. Folks who panhandle have no walls; they are figuratively “exposed” to the comment, critique, judgment of everyone who drives past them. No option to block, unfriend, delete the “panhandler." For that reason alone the activity adds value to our individual and collective moral conscience. We surely cheat ourselves when we block, unfriend, delete to avoid respectful, difficult conversations and thinking.

I said, "Really?!!" like it was so hard to believe when I've done it myself.