I hope you give this short piece a couple minutes and read through all of it. My very personal reasons for writing it are below…
I am given to random acts of kindness. Yes, I know. Often enough, those are misguided or short lived, good intentions notwithstanding. Blame my lineage of born rescuers…
I know that many readers of my writing are given to acts of kindness. Like “your” homeless person you encounter regularly, who you share your food with whenever you can. Annie, my wife, had her “ward” for years. He seems to have moved on or worse. In any event, we do not ever have leftovers in our house; nor do any restaurant leftovers ever make it home.
Frighteningly, it is nearly impossible to drive anywhere in Los Angeles without encountering the depth of despair of the homeless.
There are homeless encampments everywhere in this city. I have it on absolute authority that there are at least three times the homeless in L.A. than the city and county assert. Or admit to. Imagine: there are some 140,000 souls on the streets that are not worthy of counting, much less help?
What an astounding failure of this society to have all those people living on the streets, no, surviving on the streets, while there is such abundance of wealth being squandered by governments and individuals.
My wife, Annie’s approach is much more intelligent and much better thought-out then my viscerally and misguided driven action. Read that as I reach into my pocked for little dollars. She will buy food. Of course, she is right.
None of us, individually, can save everybody who fate has so inexorable abandoned. In fact, perhaps the combined efforts of all us “haves”, would not likely be able to rescue all the “have nots” in the world. Daunting reality, isn’t it?
But. There is always a but, the other side of every coin. You who read my writing — you have my eternal gratitude — have read this before: there are two sides to the thinnest pancake.
To my “personal” reason for writing this to you all…
As I was packing my stuff in the trunk of my car, I spied a homeless woman standing off to the side of the outside wall of the store. Next to her: her small shopping cart with a few belongings. Including what looked like a bed-roll. Her bedroom? Mind you, leaning against the wall of a big-box store. Not exactly the Prada of grocery stores; but with everything…
She did not appear mentally disturbed, drunk or stoned. Regrettably, these days those are symptoms or manifestations most of us readily recognize. My immediate impression was that of a recently downtrodden woman.
She walked up to me, stopped about five feet from me, and asked if I could give her one dollar or even some change.
I reached into my pocket intending to give her a couple dollars, removed my money clip and noted that the smallest bill I had was $20. I then said: “I don’t have any money.”
She simply and coherently said: “I understand. Thank you.” And walked back to her little shopping cart and leaned back against the wall. Of the Smart & Final.
Now, to the reason for my writing this to you all who extend me the privilege of reading me.
I got in my car. It took me about two minutes to completely fall apart. All of a sudden, I could just not look at myself into my imaginary mirror. My sense of self and being, simply stopped. I could barely breathe. I confess to disbelief that I simply said NO. I could not, cannot believe what happened to me that got me to that moment in time and that “NO”. I honestly felt that I got inexplicably and tragically lost. What happened to me at that moment? How could I get there?
I could not fix it. Will never fix it.
I called her over and gave her $20. She graciously thanked me and said she appreciated my kindness.
She appreciated MY kindness.
And I lost a ton of self-respect.
She went to fetch her small shopping cart and then transferred those meager belongings to a bigger one. Perhaps she anticipated shopping with that $20.
I called Annie and balled like an infant.
The conventional wisdom is that just about all the time giving money to street people does not feed them. Rather, feeds their demons. As I wrote herein-above, Annie, wisely, will buy food for them or give them her food, rather than spend to feed their demons. I am neither that smart nor wise. I err on the side of feeding their demons, lest they do not make it through the day. Foolish of me. Wise of Annie.
I am sharing this with you just to send you a cyber-hug for the good that you have and will do. Your thoughtful good deeds, however big or small or infrequent or random or however or whatever, are Godly deeds.
Thank you for reading.
Now, if I could stop crying and get back to peddling books.
©2022. Steven J. Manning. All rights reserved worldwide. Any reproduction in part of whole, in any medium whatsoever is strictly prohibited.