Friday, May 18, 2007

Alms for the Poor

"You're still kind of dopey," Rosa told me yesterday afternoon as we were sitting down at the shopping center.

"Well, dad gave me enough medication to anesthetize a horse," I replied.

"Did it feel good?" Rosa asked, always the consummate addict.

"It just knocked me out and I slept for sixteen hours straight," I said. "I feel like a new man this afternoon."

I and Rosa watched as one very grubby old man came walking up the sidewalk. He was stopping to ask shopping center patrons for spare change and was mostly being spurned. People would hurriedly walk past him without making eye contact as if he were a leper avoiding him at all costs.

"Who's this dude?" Rosa asked me.

"I don't know," I replied. "I have never seen him before."

He finally made his way to I and Rosa.

"Senor, my car is broken down and I need some money to buy a new battery," He said in a heavy Hispanic accent. "Can you spare some?"

I reached into my wallet and gave him a five dollar bill.

"Gracias senor," he said as he shook my hand profusely and then walked off.

"You are the biggest sucker," Rosa said. "He is just going to go drink with that money."

"It's not my place to judge," I said thinking of my own homeless days. "Besides, he looked like he needed a few drinks."

Rosa was angry with me for giving that old bum money, but I didn't care. I knew from my own homeless days that little comforts such as a beer or some smokes are what make life bearable. I gave the money unconditionally and it is not my place to judge. That is one of the biggest lessons my homelessness taught me.


Melanie said...

"I knew from my own homeless days that little comforts such as a beer or some smokes are what make life bearable."

see, this is one of those things that people who have been desperately poor understand, but those who never have, don't. they know you're on disability and you buy cigarettes, and they judge. they see you getting a box of ice cream and then paying for your groceries on foodstamps, and they judge. they just don't comprehend how, when life lays siege to you on all sides, it's these small comforts and pleasures that give you enough strength to keep trying, to keep living. for them, giving up luxuries is only a temporary measure, something akin to voluntary simplicity, and they enjoy a sense of smug virtuosity but they always *know* that they have the luxury of changing their minds, that this is a decision they are making and not the only choice they have. when you're broke, and there's no way out, every one of those little comforts feels like the last gentle thing you may ever have, and so you grab onto it like the spiritually starving person that you are.

Tory said...

Finally, someone who has the same point of view as I do regarding giving money to the homeless. When I go down town, I always come home broke and I've been known to give away my mittens, hats and scarves. Some homeless man in Toronto right now is wearing a pair of pink Winnie the Pooh mittens! And it's none of my business what they do with the money I give them. Maybe it will make their lives a little more bearable.
Take Care

Cheryl said...

I respect you for your point of view. Giving money to 'beggars' is wraught with controversary. Like you said, you've been homeless and you've stood in that man's shoes.

Welcome back :)

KYRIE said...

Yeah Andrew, I am glad ur okay today! 16 hours, wow, now tht is a record, Sleeping Beauty! lol.
Hey, the old man might just hv been seeking a warm meal n tht 5 bucks must hv helped him out if so!
Good on u.
Andrew, I am glad ur back!

Jenn said...

That's an interesting take on it. We have a few homeless people in our town that will ask for food or coffee money. We usually help out when we can, but them a pizza or whatever.

simonsays said...

Andrew----yea for you! That is also my thoughts on giving money, such a small amount to you and me, but it could make a tremendous difference in the life of someone else. It's NOT for us to judge. Keep on keepin' on---Jamie

Josie said...

Glad to see you back among us, Andrew! You understand the true spirit of giving - we give with the heart without strings attached. What is done with the gift becomes the responsibility of the recipient. Mother Teresa said if we spend time judging people we will not have time to love them. Amen to that!

Jenn said...

Today I promised not to do any lurking...I check in on you regularly and love your dialogue and your friends. I'm glad you are feeling better!

Barb Baird said...

Great Post, one that I came accross by accident, but intentionally return to day after day. Your narration of your daily life allows others to grasp onto what they have and to see it as good. Thank you for that gift. I find myself with thoughts of you throughout the day wishing you well and offering up a small prayer for your safety and good health. I am so glad that you are feeling fresh and well following your long winter's well and blog on~

Trying2BMe said...

Most people don't understand why I dig in my purse to give my change or a few bucks to someone standing on the side of an interstate ramp and I no longer try to explain. If they are standing there humbly asking for some "gift" and I can help, then I do. I have no right to pass judgment or see them as less than myself. I don't know their life or their situation; perhaps they are an addict or alcoholic or maybe just lazy. Whatever the case is, the "gift" I give isn't depriving me of anything, but it could make all the difference in the world to that person.

This is a value that I'm trying to teach my daughter. Many times we've bought a meal for someone standing outside a restaurant, several times I've pulled over and given my umbrella to someone stranded in the rain and yes, I've even put gas in a strangers car. It isn't my place to judge my brothers and sisters, but I do have a responsibility to treat others the way I want to be treated... with kindness and respect.

Summer said...

Hey Rip Van! Glad you're well rested!


There you are!
Glad you're alright!
Funny if only you'd run into that man after your night out with Rosa..would you have given him the $100 that was tempting you with purchasing beer?
I understand the with it a mom, a wife in an interfaith marriage, in the snotty town that we live in. It's nice to know there are people out there that don't judge. Even if we are the ones driving around in minivans with soccer stickers splayed out in the rearview mirror.We're not all selfish and ungrateful...Ironically my blog that I posted yesterday was based on judging.
When you give, somehow it ends up giving back. It's all about paying it forward.

Moonroot said...

Glad you're OK and the long sleep made you feel better. As for the giving money thing my feeling is if I can afford it, why not? As you said, it's a good thing to be able to give some small comfort to someone in need. And you never really know what that person's story is or what their needs are at that time - food, tobacco, alcohol, a hot coffee, whatever.

Moonlink said...

It's good to hear your rest made you feel better. Thank you for reminding us how one spark on kindness lights someones life. I think most people who read this post will be as generous as the can to the homeless, and helpless.

EE said...

I'm with you...when I give money to the homeless, I don't care what they buy with it. It's not my business, and if it makes their life a bit easier....

somebody's dream-body said...

Thank you for this posting and for your ongoing generosity to others. I have been extremely blessed lately with my income since I have stopped using, and your post motivated me. Today I walked down to **** Street, a local retail and housing district where many homeless people hang out during the day, and I gave a 20 dollar bill to the first man who asked if I could spare some change. I agree that it is not my place to judge his circumstances or his reasons for needing money, and I know I made his day without putting myself through any hardship. Thanks for being an inspiration. I walk through that neighborhood almost every day and lately have become so apathetic with my own issues and the ugliness of the problems in the world as to walk right on by these people, whereas I have always been the kind of person who gave to anyone and everyone I could help. Thanks for helping me to get back on track and step outside of myself.

Hope you have a wonderful day, and I'm glad you are feeling better about your choices with regard to your meds.