URmyBoyBlue - Ann Arbor

How I Taught a Man to Fish


My philosophy with street persons or the homeless is well known and straightforward, “Give a man a fish, he eats for the day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” It was one of my favorite philosophical sayings that I liked to think about growing up. It was easy to understand and how it applies, yet I had never practiced the philosophy (like so many) because it’s so difficult to refuse someone who is obviously less well off, begging on the street.

Throughout college, I was notorious for giving money to anybody that may be asking for it, definitely hundred’s of dollars over the years. When I finally convinced myself of its relevance and importance, I needed to find a way to teach someone to fish. This opportunity came one afternoon when I was walking up the front steps of the Michigan Union, the most central building on the University of Michigan campus, and was surprised to see a homeless gentleman begging for money wearing an arch-rival Michigan State baseball cap.

My man was pretty down on his luck, basically just holding out his hand and grunting, but his naïve fashion sense made me laugh and I saw the potential. Making me laugh was enough to earn something from me, but I wanted him to earn it from everyone else as well! I told him to stay there and I would be right back. I hoped he understood. In a recycle contained I found a pizza box and ripped off the top. In the union, I borrowed a big, black magic marker and wrote. When I came back to the front steps, he extended his hand not remembering that we had already met. “I don’t have any money for you, but I might have something better?” placing the sign in his hands that read, “Help a Good Man Earn a Better Hat. Go Blue!” After class, I walked again by the area to find my boy, this time, all smiles at me, holding his sign proud and high. He had learned to fish and it felt much better than paying the usual passing toll to avoid the situation.

Category: Michigan // College

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