Remember when times were simpler and all it took to get our goat was a beggar at the intersection shilling for change? Ah, the good old days, long before dictatorial government leaders were restricting our every move and preventing us from going to church to pray.

With all that has transpired in just a matter of weeks, I'd almost forgotten about the tin cup brigade. Of course, I don't get out much these days.

While the cold and bitter winter weather drove many of the area's panhandlers indoors or to warmer climates, some did remain true to their mission, which is to separate you from your cash while clinging to a piece of real estate at Routes 6 and 140 or at the "octopus" in Downtown New Bedford. Those were the hearty ones who managed to scrounge up enough winter gear to keep from freezing out there – further proof that begging must be profitable.

Just as certainly as the birds return in the spring, the panhandlers come back to their perches. But this season, they face new challenges. Those dictatorial government leaders have restricted public movement; therefore, there are fewer benefactors to contribute to the panhandlers. And with this viral plague to contend with, a good panhandler wants to be sure he or she can survive to beg another day. So proper precautions are in order.

A listener snapped the photo above of a panhandler at the octopus recently. The man is obviously concerned about catching something from a contributor, or vice versa, thus the face mask and gloves. A socially conscious beggar who cares about you. But to contribute, one must violate the six-foot social distancing rules so this guy just might be out of luck.

Perhaps the kind soul who contributed the mask and gloves can get this guy one of those baskets on a long handle like what they used in church to collect your seat money back when we were allowed to go to church. It might be difficult to toss him a contribution from a proper six feet away.

Or better yet, maybe the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak might be the perfect opportunity for our police officers to finally move these beggars off of the street corners altogether. If going to church puts the public at risk, in-your-face begging must be just as risky.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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