Tonight I spent $12 to buy two beggars on the street food. I’ve never done that before. What on Earth would possess me to do that?
Before I answer that question, I’ll preface it with some explanation.
I lived in downtown-“ish” Boston for the better part of 5 years while I studied for my undergraduate degree. While walking to and from different places (some say you can get to anywhere in Boston by walking in about 15 minutes) you tend to meet some interesting people. Especially around the liquor store right on the edge of campus which also happened to be right next to a half-way house (yes, that sounds like a very good idea to me!) Over the years I’ve perfected the “don’t look at them in the eye and just move on” or the “bluff” and say “no, I don’t have any change I can spare” even though you know you could probably spare some coin but justify it with “I’m a poor college student.”
And you know what, I don’t blame anyone who thinks that way because more often than not I think that way. What do you suppose beggars use their money for? Booze? Drugs? Sex? Probably all three at one time or another. So why should someone just give money to a beggar when they don’t know what that money is going to be used for?
I’ve thought about giving money to the homeless or even volunteering my time to help others. I’ve just never seemed to be at that point in my life where I was able to branch out and stop worrying about myself and be able to share or even give to another person. A lot of times growing up I was either too self-absorbed or just had too much going on in my life to even consider being able to help someone else when my life needed so much help.
When I moved out to New York last year, I had a job, I had a place to live and I was by myself for the most part (save for Izzie always being around and the times Adam stopped on by.) I was someone “jealous” that Adam was able to volunteer his own time to become an EMT and be able to legitimately go out and save someone’s life on a nightly basis (and all this with a full-time day job, no less!) What could lil’ ol’ me do on the week nights to stave the boredom? I had thought about going to a Human Society shelter and volunteering there a few nights a week but it turns out even shelters close for the evenings at around 4, that doesn’t work for someone who worked in a Start-up environment. The feeling of charity eventually subsided and crawled back into the abyss which is my soul to fester – *cough* I mean hibernate, and I had nearly forgotten about my desire to “give back.”
Fast forward to last night. I’ve been unemployed for almost 3 months now as I wait for my new job to start next week. I’m standing in the oral hygiene isle at CVS down the street from my apartment because I’ve seemed to run out of toothpaste although I swear I bought two tubes the last time I was out (I always seem to be running out of toothpaste, my Adam has it as a snack?) Since I’ve been unemployed for 3 months, money was getting a little tight. I had to ask my mother that same day to lend me some money so I could pay February’s rent since my job got pushed back yet another week (damn bureaucracy!) The toothpaste cost $5.99. I contemplated about getting two tubes but decided not, “that’s $16! I don’t have enough for that!” As I walked to the register with my toothpaste in hand, I spent a couple minutes looking at the Valentine’s candy that was on display and picked out a bag of “fun-size” Kit-Kats (thinking about Adam, who loves the things) and heart-shaped York Peppermint Patties because I hadn’t had them in a really long time. I paid and then went home.
After chomping on a few Kit-Kats since I was starving and waiting for dinner to be done, I happened to look at the receipt that I shoved in the bag. It cost just as much for me to buy that damn candy than it would have been for me to buy that other tube of toothpaste. Ugh. Why was it okay for me to spend it on an obsession (chocolate) rather than something hygienic (toothpaste?)
I began to think about all the “things” in my life that I wanted. I had realized that over the past few months as I was looking for a job I had begun making lists of “things” I wanted to be able to afford after I started making money again. New wheels for my car to replace the ones that were stolen, a new iMac so I could have more computing power for the things I wanted to do, even a doggy seat belt for Izzie because it would make my life easier just to hook her up to that than lug around her obtuse kennel around on day trips. I began to felt guilty for my desire for “things” that I had developed rather than enriching experiences in my life.
I told you that story to tell you this one.
Tonight I was waiting for my train from White Plains into Grad Central. As I walked on to the platform, a middle-aged man who looked and acted like he may have been slightly mentally disabled asked me for a dollar. I lied and said I didn’t have any cash on me. I sat down and watched as he walked on down and asked someone else for change. Instead of what I had said earlier, he said “Where are you going? Are you going to buy a ticket with it?” and instead the guy said, “no I wanted to by food.” I couldn’t really hear the end of the conversation but it ended with the beggar hitting the elevator button to go downstairs. There is
Brandon N. Schory says
Say what you will, but to me, I can’t think of any way buying someone a hot meal could be a bad thing. What they do with the energy and opportunity you’ve given them is there choice, but at least you gave them the chance. 🙂