Brother Can You Spare 25,000 Miles?

I don’t give to panhandlers … anymore.

Several years ago I lived in a townhome located just around the corner from a gas station. One day a young man knocks at my door with a sob story about running out of gas. He said his wife and baby were waiting back at the car while he trekked off to find a gas station, but he had no money on him for gas and was desperate, so was knocking on doors for help and could I loan him just a little money so he could get his family back to their home – he promised he would pay me back.

Even at that time in my life I was skeptical of beggars, but this guy seemed really genuine and sincere – his eyes even looked like he had been crying.

So I gave him $5, wished him luck, closed the door, and turned back inside to finish whatever it was I was doing.

And then I heard the laughter from outside. Looked out the window and there he was, just a little ways down the sidewalk whooping it up with a friend.

I had been had.

The kid was a hell of an actor, I had to give him that. I still wonder how he achieved the wiped-away tears look – as if trying to hide the fact he had been crying. And did he rehearse his lines? I can just picture the two sketchy young men back at their hovel practicing:

Sketchy Dude #1: (Reading from script) “I wouldn’t normally do this, but I’m desperate … I’m so embarrassed … and my wife and baby…”

Sketchy Dude #2: “Cut! Not bad, not bad, just a couple of notes. Take two beats instead of one after ‘desperate’. Your character is a proud man and is really struggling with his embarrassment. Recompose and hit ‘wife’ strong, but when you get to ‘baby’ you need to choke up. Through your emotion the audience should picture your character’s wife; holding a baby clad only in diapers – sad, scared – wondering about the the life she has ahead of her, the man she has borne a child with, and whether she made a bad choice.”

SD #1: “We’re gonna clean up.”

Despite my cynicism and experience being taken, it’s still difficult to turn away from those who claim to be in need – particularly when they have a good story and seem sincere.

People like Grandmax4 for instance, who posted about her dire straits on Milepoint:

I’m now stuck here in TN along with my 6 year old daughter….and we realllly need to get home. It’s been a month already, I’m lost my job because I left. We literally are close to penniless and I can’t expect my daughter to pay for my flight when she just had her 3rd child.


I feel embarrassed to even ask…but that’s where desperation has stepped in….

I suspect many miles and points collectors might have heard a similar refrain from semi-distant friends and/or family members at some point. And if you are a cynic like me you might have thought, “If I knew they were sincere and they really had explored all options I would help, but this sounds fishy.”

Without saying as much, that is essentially how the replies to Grandmax4’s plight come across in this thread. But because no one simply jumps up and offers money or miles, several good options are put forward as alternatives:

You could try they are in TN and arrange free travel for people with medical. Since you traveled for a medical reason and now can’t get home they may help, couldn’t hurt to contact them.


You could try the
or other local faith based groups in the area which may also be able to help.
I know my church as a discretionary fund set up to help in emergencies like this. ~DJP_707

Have you also considered perhaps taking Greyhound or a bus back home (usually cheaper than flying I’d think). ~DIG/R_1K

You could set up a United gift registry and perhaps friends and family would be willing to chip in some money


it seems UA (perhaps other carriers, too) have a Bill-Me-Later feature ~HaveMilesWillTravel

In the end, Grandmax4’s friends and family setup a GoFundMe account for her, and she and her 6-yr-old daughter presumably made it home safely. Although Grandmax4, if you are reading this, please go back to the thread and let everyone know how it turned out.

It would help restore a little faith in humanity for those of us who have lost some.

Read the thread in its entirety: I don’t even know if people can do this anymore….

Image: “Beggar’s Sign” by Eli Christman. CC BY 2.0.

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