My favorite part of being a musician musician is getting to tell stories. I also dabble in some part-time marketing consulting as well to help businesses and organizations better tell their story. Every single day as an individual I am inundated with ads, commercials, previews, pop-ups, slogans, billboards, offers, etc. I can't remember 99.9% of them. I tune them out just like you do.
In the past two weeks, I've walked or driven past my fair share of panhandlers. I have given to some when I was able, and didn't to others. I remember only two.
One had a sign that read "Broke & Sexy", and the other one read, "I need eighty cents to feed my dog."
Here's why these two stood out to me.
"Broke & Sexy"
It's always better to be called sexy rather than to call ourselves sexy. At least in public. Yet, here is a guy, whom I presume is homeless, sitting on a corner with a cardboard sign that reads "Broke and Sexy." I literally laughed out loud, not at him or his circumstances, but at the fact that his circumstances hadn't hindered his confidence, or his sense of humor. We live in a world where we screen and photoshop the pictures we post, we are always painting ourselves in a good light. Beauty fades, we wrinkle, gain weight, and ose our hair. Contrary to pop culture those aren't the things that make us sexy. Confidence, honesty and sense of humor are sexy. His sign was true. This man was Broke and Sexy!
"I need eighty cents to feed my dog"
If you are anything like me you're wondering why eighty cents? Why not fifty cents, why not a dollar? I have no idea why he chose eighty cents (Maybe the preferred brand of dog food his pup liked), but this man sat there with a small dog in his lap. He just sat there petting and talking to his dog. I've read a lot of negative opinions about homeless that have dogs, that go something like this... "If they can't take care of themselves they have no business taking care of an animal." Maybe some of them use animals to make their stories more believable. I don't think this guy did. At least that's the story i'm telling myself. Because here was a man who for some reason had an exact amount that he needed for something that was obviously dear to him. His dog is most likely the most important thing in his life. It's his only companion, the only one he has to talk to, the only one who loves him unconditionally.
These two signs got my attention because they were different. They didn't say will work for food, or I need money, or fallen on hard times. Signs we've all seen a million times. They said something new, and I told myself a story about them when I read them, and it appealed to my humanity.
What's ironic is how businesses will spend a ton of money on marketing and advertising to get me to notice them and I notice very little. Yet here are two guys with a sharpie and a cardboard box that create a more memorable story that I'm still talking about.
If I were in charge of marketing a company I'd go find someone with signs like these and give them a job.