research institute for compassionate economics

Crossing the street together

Written by Diane Coffey on February 24th, 2011

This post is about a humbling sight I saw on the street in Guadalajara a few weeks ago:

At a busy intersection there was a young man, about 20 or 25 years old who washes the windows of the cars stopped at the light in exchange for however many pesos you want to offer him. It must be a tough job, standing all day in the sun and the exhaust.

As I stood one block away from the busy intersection, waiting for the light on my street to change, I saw a blind man, the same age as the window washer, clearly a student from a middle or upper-middle class family, approach the intersection. The window washer hurried over, greeted him, took his arm, and led him across the busy street, obviously expecting nothing in return. When they reached the other side, the window washer patted the other man on the back, and the blind man continued down the sidewalk.

I don’t know if they do the same thing every day, or if they’ve only ever crossed the street together this once, but it was really moving to watch the disadvantaged window washer take time out of his day, and miss the opportunity to wash windows at a red light, to help someone who was also disadvantaged, though in a different way.