I don't know if I'd do exactly what she did, however, the book has opened me to being more aware of developing friendships with a wide variety of people. Laura's friendship with Maurice violated all sorts of social conventions for becoming friends: they are a different race, they live in vastly different economic classes, they travel in significantly different social circles, they are many years apart in age, and their friendship has no obvious means of reciprocity. Is it legitimate to develop a friendship with a person just so you can help them? Or should we only be developing friendships with people we can help?
I admit one of my biggest pet peeves was seeing the beggars on the block near the Health & Welfare office. They'd hold signs like, "Single dad with kids. Anything helps." Yet I know that H&W gives assistance to kids (or families with kids) even when the parent royally messes up. If you have kids the office to get assistance is RIGHT THERE! Turn your head around and walk 50 yards in that direction. Stand in line instead of stand on a street corner, for goodness sakes! So when I see people begging on the street I tend to lump them directly into the category of "clueless" or "manipulator". If I see a child begging on the street, I'm more likely to assume that s/he is there as a ploy to get some adult money (much like Maurice's mom did with young children who lived in the building).
So I probably wouldn't do much for a beggar but I'm hoping I'll be less likely to make assumption who I meet in the course of my daily life. The problem is I tend not to pry in people's lives. I think about our real estate agent. Remember that guy with the over-priced house who kept calling me trying to convince me to buy it? Well, I was talking to him one day after our real estate agent had shown the house to one of her other clients. The home owner went on and on about how he liked and admired our real estate agent because "she's a single mom with those boys and she is working so hard to better her life." Funny, but I had no clue! I never pried as to whether or not she was married or not, whether or not she owned a home or not. I knew she had children and approximately where she lived because she volunteered the information (usually while working around her schedule.) However, I never asked because I figured I didn't know her well enough. Yet here was this guy who only talked with her for no more than an hour and he practically knew her life story! I have to work on that.