My favorite blogger, Melissa Jordan of Dear Baby Blog, posted a sweet story on Instagram today of the rescue of a little turtle crossing a road. She ended it with, “May we never be so set on our own journey, that we fail to notice the opportunity to make a difference in the paths of those around us.” I hadn’t planned to write about my experience this morning, but she inspired me.
The entrance ramp I use on my way to work each morning is very often the spot where you can find a homeless man with a cardboard sign. It’s rarely the same man, but it’s always the same reaction from me. Dread when I see him there, guilt, questioning whether I should make eye contact or look straight ahead (which is worse?), a brief thought of giving him something then the sinking feeling of getting scammed by a jerk or drug addict, and finally, not even bothering to look in my purse for some change. I drive away and think, oh well I never have cash anyway or maybe I should make some of those blessing bags then next time I can help. By the time I get to work I forget all about him and the cycle continues a few days later when it’s someone else on that corner.
The awful truth is, I never felt much sympathy for those people. I didn’t trust them. They probably did something in their life to put them there. They deserved it. They could walk into any McDonald’s and get a job. Sure, I’ve been known to push a wheelchair bound man out of a snowy street and pay for his $40 meal (got a bit taken advantage of there…) and I spent most of my life volunteering at places for children with disabilities or at the Salvation Army where I helped people feed their families while they battled their cancer and drained their bank accounts to pay medical bills. But for some reason, I just always had a disconnect when I saw someone on the street. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with so many organizations that offer help (why don’t they just go get help?!), but frankly I was dead wrong.
Not everyone qualifies for the help that’s out there. They’re not deemed worthy because they’ve made a mistake early in their lives that has ruined every prospect of getting a job or receiving assistance. Not everyone is blessed with a supportive family and a steady path in life. Some people start with holes too deep to climb out of.
Maybe it’s all of the Soul Pancake & Upworthy videos I’ve been watching lately, but this morning I gave. I gave to the saddest, most humiliated looking man with a sweet little wave and kind eyes. He didn’t want to be on that fucking corner in the rain. He didn’t want to hold that tiny cardboard sign between his dirty, worn hands. I smiled at him, contemplated the signs the universe has been giving me, and dug through my purse. I was convinced I had nothing more than twenty cents in pennies, but at least I was trying. I open up my wallet and discover some cash that I forgot about. Money that I fucking FORGOT about. So I roll down my window, say hey this is all I have, he smiles at me and says God Bless You. The light turns green and I cry the whole drive to work.
(Let’s also think for a moment here, what if that man is awful & terrible and is just going to buy drugs?! Here’s what I have to say to that, what if he’s not? What if he hasn’t eaten in three days and now he can at least buy a bag of peanuts? And furthermore, I forgot I had that money. I just forgot about it and one day I would have discovered it and bought myself a candy bar. I should go back and thank him for taking it so that I don’t get a bigger ass.)
I can do so much more, we can all do so much more. These people, they aren’t our enemies. They aren’t scum beneath our shoes. And no, they can’t just walk into McDonald’s and get a job. I wish our society made it easier for them to do so. And as Deepak Chopra says, we are all love — we’re the same being in different disguises. We need to take care of each other.
A side story, I got my first job when I was 16 at a pet groomer/store. My boss wasn’t the greatest man in the world, but he did something that looking back on, I really admire. He hired convicted felons. I mean, no murderers or anything. It was really just people that did something to screw up their own lives and none of them were even 30 years old yet. I was a little bit terrified as an innocent little 16 year old who had literally just come back from cancer research camp. These people ended up teaching me so many valuable lessons and were just happy to be given a job…given a chance to say yeah I screwed up, but I still deserve a life. It was something I hadn’t thought much about until I watched this Soul Pancake video. A homeless couple mentioned they try to get any jobs available, but they don’t pass a background check so no one will hire them. Wow, that’s what my co-workers lives would have been.
I’m changed. Watch this video.
Apologies for the f-bombs. Sometimes they just pop up when I’m feeling passionate!