Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ten bucks and a fro yo run

It's interesting how other people's words and/or actions could have a ripple effect, which could of course be big or small, positive or negative. Recently I briefly blogged up my experience seeing and hearing Chris Guillebeau, the author of The Art of Nonconformity, in D.C. There was a section of the book where he talks about charity and simply "letting go" after the act of giving. I found this section, and the entire book, a truly refreshing read. Have you ever been approached by someone on the street, who may be homeless or down on their luck, and decide to give them some money? This happened to me tonight, maybe about thirty minutes ago as of writing this post. I don't know about you, but it kills me to see homeless people or folks down on their luck. It really does, almost to the point of disturbing me. Perhaps if I was a city slicker, I'd be more jaded, which wouldn't be a bad thing for someone like me, who personally, is not exactly wealthy, at least with regards to money. I guess in the suburbs, it (homelessness) stands out a lot more.

Anyhow, today was a particularly stressful day at work for both Kris and I. She had to deal with issues in abundance, only dealt with by people who work in retail. I'm still recovering from the fact that a bus almost didn't show up for a class of fifth-graders who've been waiting all year to go on a highly anticipated field trip, as well as an incident with a kid who completely disappeared from my sight/classroom as soon as I turned around to wash my hands during an after-school program I teach. Fortunately he left to go home with his mom, who was in the school hallway, who didn't bother to stop in my room to sign him out. What do these things have to do with anything? Well, as much as Kris and I had plans to sit down and work on some art this evening, all we could do was shower, eat some then pass out in the living room. We both felt we deserved to be a little decadent this evening, so I mustered up some strength to hit up the nearby grocery store for some "Moose Trax" frozen yogurt, at Kris' request. As I pulled into the mostly dark and nearly vacant parking lot, I saw a pretty ragged looking man approach my car. I immediately thought, oh sh@*t, he's gonna jump me. Instead, the man kindly asked if I could spare some change so he could get to Richmond eventually. Since I don't really carry much cash ever, I grabbed a couple of the quarters and pennies I had in my pocket and told him this is all I had, and wished him well. The man may have been in his forties and definitely looked as if life had gotten the best of him. I didn't know him, but he seemed like he truly hit rock bottom and he was genuinely thankful, shaking my hand and asking me to wish him good luck. He turned around one last time to thank me again (for a lousy fifty-three cents) and said "It never hurts to ask, right?". I wished him luck once more, and felt like a real chump, going into the grocery store to drop four dollars on some fro yo that we really, probably shouldn't be eating this time of night anyhow. Long story short, I told the man to wait a few minutes while I get what I have to get, and I told him I'll see what I can do.  I dropped by the in-store ATM, took out a ten and on my way out, gave it to the man and told him that's all I could give him. By now, it was starting to get cooler and very windy, and I felt bad that this was all I could do. The man, on the other hand acted like it was Christmas and couldn't stop thanking me. When I got home, Kris could see I was bothered by something and asked me what was wrong. I told her what I did and said we'll just have to eat out one less time this week, which she agreed to completely. At this point I had lost my appetite. Some might call me a braggart for posting about this, but I felt the need to write about it,  and wished I  did more posts of this sort here. I'm definitely not naive to homelessness and poverty or any other kind of human, or animal suffering for that matter. What I did realize is that this person wasn't just a "bum" or a "vagrant" or any other stupid term we create to desensitize our minds from that fact that  the folks on the streets are fellow human beings, like you and me, who were once children with hopes and dreams (and many who are children), who might still have a shot at a better life ahead, if given a chance. Besides, any one of us could be that guy.  His problems, whatever they might have been, made mine and my wife's seem pretty petty, in retrospect. I used to wonder what someone did with the change I gave away to them, and think, "what if that person used it on booze or drugs?" or "what if I'm supporting their bad habit and contributing to their life getting even worse?".  Many people say you should give to an organized charity instead. Well, I do, to a couple of them, on an annual and monthly basis. I have in the past as well only to have discovered the organization embezzled tens of thousands in funds (and it was a church organization no less). The fact is, a man, desperate enough to walk up to me and ask me for money, obviously needed money, so I gave him some, right there, in person and on the spot. I'm not suggesting folks do this on a regular basis (especially if you do reside or work in the city). I am suggesting however, if not to my own self, we think about how we perceive others who are less fortunate and what we can do about it, especially with winter and the holidays fast approaching. I also suggest you share, blog, and write about a simple, random or nonrandom act of kindness or giving and not be afraid of someone accusing you of being a braggart. I personally was inspired by a great post at a blog called Ridiculously Extraordinary today. Once again, the ripple effect.