For Crying Out Loud, Just Take The Damn Flyer

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Honestly, do you think the poor guy on the corner WANTS to be there?

Sweating in beastly hot summer sun. Shivering in the chill of winter. Getting drenched in the pouring rain. Do you really think this was his plan when he retired and illness wiped out his savings? Do you really think this was his hope when he arrived, doe-eyed in this country praying to be able to support his family? Do you really think this is how he planned to pay to be able to go to school?

Do you really think he wants to be standing there handing out flyers any more than you want to be solicited to take one?

Look, you may not like the decision his boss made. You may not like the fact that someone’s spending money to put their business in your face. You may not want want his boss has to offer. And, if enough people feel the same, the campaign will fail and your walk down the street won’t be interrupted any more. Because, the little man on the corner will be out of a job.

But, as long as he’s there, maybe try to remember something.

This wasn’t his dream either. He’d rather be doing something else. And, he very well might be taking classes to give him what he needs to do make a better life, to stay alive. You won’t know, you can’t know just by looking at him.

So, give him a little respect.

Look him in the eyes. Smile his way. And, thank him as you take what he’s being paid next to nothing to offer.

Because, there but for the grace of God go you.

Because, it’s the right thing to do.

Because, he IS you.

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28 responses

28 responses to “For Crying Out Loud, Just Take The Damn Flyer”

  1. […] Go to the author’s original blog: For Crying Out Loud, Just Take The Damn Flyer […]

  2. Why is it the right thing to do?

    Do I also have to take the telemarketing phone call? Do I have to click on the spam e-mail?

    Or can I just very politely say, “No thank you,” smile and keep walking?

  3. KC says:

    I agree with Edwin.

    Grassroots marketing works better for some things than others. Should I take strip club flyers to be polite?

    And it is a tough job – I’ve done it myself. But you’d be surprised how well some of them get paid. Definitely double digits an hour…

  4. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Edwin & KC – I get what you’re saying, and reality is you can fabricate any back story that suits the conclusion out want to arrive at. We all can.

    But, that’s not what this is really about.

    The man on the street is a metaphor. It’s not about whether you take the flyer or not. It’s about whether you make a conscious choice to give people the benefit of the doubt and to lead your interactions with compassion and understanding, rather than judgment and self interest.

    It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not an easy way to live. I struggle with this all the time. But, to me, it’s simply the right way for me to strive to live my life.

  5. Jonathan Fields says:

    PS – The man on the street by me makes only enough to pay for food for the day, then goes to live in a shelter at night. No double digits for him.

  6. Dean says:

    Jonathan –

    We are all essentially one in many respects. So you don’t have to take the flyer, you don’t have to be hassled, you could though be a sport about it and say to yourself “there but for the grace of God go I” and put a little cheer into another person’s life and decline the offer gracefully. It couldn’t hurt and it might just do some good … for us not the other guy.

  7. sfk says:

    I don’t personally feel that I should have to take a flyer for something I’m not interested in. It’s a nuisance. I then have to carry the flyer around all day until I can find a place to throw it away. Do you know how annoying that is? Either that or I have to litter on the streets!

    Additionally, it’s RUDE to take a flyer for something I’m not interested in. It costs the business money to print those, and the guy on the corner is often getting paid-per-flyer. If there’s something I think I might be interested in I’ll take it, but otherwise I’m just clicking random banner ads.

    This post is really preachy. It feels like you’re yelling at me when I read it. “Just take the damn flyer?” Erg.

  8. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Dean – glad u get it. It’s not about the flyer.

    @ sfk – You’re right, this post was really preachy, very uncharacterstic for me.

    It just really bothers me when I see people treat others with disdain and disrespect, especially without the person being belittled and deemed not worthy of such respect wasn’t doing anything to bring on such behavior beyond simply trying to stay alive.

    As I said in my earlier comment, this post wasn’t about flyers, it was about human nature and compassion. Read it. The flyers were just a metaphor. Do what you will with them.

  9. Aimee says:

    Preaching or not, it’s good to be reminded that we need to be respectful of our fellow humans. We’re all on the same planet, sharing the same resources. We all have heartbreak, hidden or in public view. We all have common goals, one of which is being valued by other people. It’s good to be reminded. Thank you.

  10. RagPicker says:

    I don’t appreciate the guilt tripping aspect of this post. Preach compassion all you want. Lay it on thick.

    But don’t try to tell me (or even infer) that I am obligated to accept advertising or I am not compassionate. That’s BS.

    Next time, try to make your case without the attitude and without trying to guilt trip us.


  11. If they’re in your would they are, on some level, an extension of your consciousness. When you extend love and respect to all you make the world a better place for everyone including yourself. Isn’t that what really matters?

    This is a great quote Jonathan,”It’s about whether you make a conscious choice to give people the benefit of the doubt and to lead your interactions with compassion and understanding, rather than judgment and self interest.”

  12. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ True, true, we all strive to be valued

    @ Ragpicker – It’s not about guilt-tripping, that never comes from the outside in and it wasn’t my intent. I apologize if the way I phrased anything implied that it was.

    Please read my comments above, having repeated them now three times, it’s clear I should have simply included them in the body of the post. My bad.

    The story is just a metaphor, it’s not about the flyer, it’s not even about the little man, look past that. It’s about what we hold dear and the way we all strive to live our lives, treat those around us, even strangers, and hope to be treated ourselves.

    @ Jonathan – you got the bigger message, when you view others as an extension of yourself, you tend to treat them very differently or at least consider how you’ll treat them with a bit more forethought.

  13. Justin says:

    I don’t think it is that big of a deal, although when I see people handing out things, I usually take one. I give it a quick read through and then usually throw it away. The ones I get aren’t really advertisements, though, they are from animal rights and environmentalist groups, which I like anyway.

  14. sfk says:

    Well in that case, I completely missed the metaphor. What was it? Treating others well? Because I don’t see how taking a flyer is the equivalent of treating others well. To politely decline doesn’t seem too horrible.

  15. Jon says:

    Wow, about half of us don’t get it.

    How about this scenario…

    We are all the man on the street.
    This post is the flyer. Our comments are the flyer.
    Or,(gratuitous Matrix reference) There is no flyer.

    Great post, Jonathan.

  16. Well Jonathon, I agree with you. This is not about flyers but who you are as a person. To give the begger or street musician a couple of bucks. You may not have much to spare but at least you have enough to make a decision. I firmly believe that what goes around comes around, not always the same way but it does.

  17. sfk says:

    Jon, I still don’t get it. If I were a man on a street handing out flyers I would not find it rude of someone to politely decline.

  18. Jon says:

    @sfk: I would not find it rude, either, but it’s not so much about the flyers. It’s soo much about the humanity of recognizing another person for who they are (or might be) as a person, rather than assigning them a category to fit into. Politely declining the flyer would probably be very acceptable to the man on the street.

    When i was much younger I self-published a small book of poetry which I gave the lousy title ‘Lifeblood’. I walked the university area in Albuquerque for weeks trying to give away this little book. At first I was surprised at the reactions I got. Some people were afraid of me, some were angry. Some showed open contempt and disgust for me. In every instance, without exception, I was treated badly, even (literally) threatened a couple of times. I will never forget that experience, and I will never repeat it.

    A polite ‘no’ would have been simply great.

    We seem to focus so much on the flyers, the ‘stuff’, and not so much on the person.

  19. Vicky H says:


    I am so glad (really glad) you wrote about this. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I always make it a point to look people, especially those down on their luck in the eyes with a friendly smiile. Maybe that can motivate them, if not nothing lost, but so much to gain.

    I am trying to teach my kids this concept. I will be so proud if they lay a groundwork of respect for every human being.

  20. I certainly agree we need to be respectful and kind to everyone. If that was all you were saying, why not just say that? Instead what I heard was to be kind I have to accept a hassle and a nuisance from people. I can’t buy that one.

    This is not an either/or situation. I can be kind. I can be respectful. I can say nice things. At the same time, I can still say, “No, I don’t want your flyer. Thank you.”

  21. I just posted on Sunday, on my blog about having empathy for your fellow man. This fits right into that niche and I appreciate you posting this.

    More people need to put themselves in the shoes of the other – if you did that, your eyes would open wide.

  22. […] Check out the post by Jonathon Fields that talks about the same concept. […]

  23. sfk says:

    I would never threaten a person handing out flyers like you were threatened. That’s disgusting. I also wouldn’t act like I was disgusted or angry. If I were interested in the book you were handing out, I would take it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t.

  24. Kozer says:


  25. Vesica says:

    No, I will not take the damn flyer.( I don’t want them dumped on my steps, either).
    I do want to walk down the street and NOT have paper practically pushed in my face, nor do I want to be solicited in the street to buy items of questionable value and origin. What about peoples’ right to walk down the street without the above mentioned “soliciting harassment” which occurs on just about every corner of Manhattan?
    I also have an unlisted phone number and screen calls, just to avoid “telemarketing” due to about four annoying calls a day, previously.

  26. at least respect comes first, does not matter whom do you face … if you are interested than you might take one…

  27. It’s all about the karma! Won’t go so far as to say what goes around comes around in a situation like that described here but what if you’re the only ‘friendly’ face this person gets to look into all day.

    It really costs nothing but a smile. I’m just sayin…


  28. Norm says:

    Thanks for the post. You cannot judge what the potential these people have.

    My friend first job was this and now she is one of the top stock broker for Meryl Lynch. Pulling 500K a year.

    Everyone have to start somewhere in life.