I had what felt like an incredibly long day Tuesday in class.
It felt like the most “Mondaiest” Tuesday ever, and I was ready to get home and see my son. Usually, I get back to my car by bus from class, but it was taking too long to get to the pickup area, and I decided to walk instead.
I was ALMOST to my car when an obviously homeless man crossed my path. I nodded hello and tried to continue walking. I, and I imagine many others, feel almost uneasy around the homeless; but he seemed to be walking in the same direction I was so I thought it rude to ignore him. I asked him how his day had been going and he asked me the same.
Then, like I knew it would happen, he asked me if I had any cash I could spare. This situation ALWAYS makes me incredibly uncomfortable for a few reasons.
1. I don’t carry cash; it’s just our societal norm. I have all my money in the bank and use my debit card.
2. Believe it or not, I’m usually pretty broke and have only enough money to get what me, my son, and husband need.
And 3. I have been told my whole life that the homeless population will waste any money on booze and drugs.
And so I said honestly, “I have no cash on me, I don’t carry it..,” he looked very disappointed, but I also added, “but if you want, I will walk with you to a restaurant and buy you dinner.” And he looked genuinely happy and thankful for that.
On our walk, we had a pleasant conversation, and I learned a few things about him. It was incredible to hear about his life. And I think he felt good to have someone to talk to for a little while. When we got where we were going, he asked if I minded if he went to the bathroom to wash up. I find it interesting that he asked as if I would mind that he felt he needed to wash his hands, I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t wait for him? Maybe he thought I would leave and he’d go hungry? I ordered what he said he wanted and waited for him to finish. His food was ready, so I got it and took it to a table. When he came out of the bathroom, he apologized for taking so long! That blew me away. He said he needed to clean out his scarf like he thought I would be offended for waiting a few minutes. I told him he was perfectly fine, but that I did need to get going so I could get home. He then thanked me several times and said he was very hungry. I then told him he was welcome and bid him adieu.
I took a few things away from this situation.
1. It is wrong to judge someone because they may be different than you; this seems like common sense, but in today’s world we seem to be having a hard time with it.
2. All people are human. Again, common sense, right? Maybe not. Each and every one of us has feelings and needs, and many of them are not being met. And unfortunately, some of our even basic needs aren’t being met. I would never say that we should have to be forced to help someone, I think that’s wrong. But I do believe that it’s important to evaluate our lives and see it’s feasible to help others.
And 3. It felt good to know that that man was a little happier and wouldn’t be hungry. Helping others makes us feel better, almost like working out, I bet it even releases a feel good hormone like oxytocin or something.
We are aware helping our fellow man, or woman is a right thing to do.
So why don’t we do it more often?
I can’t answer that for others, but I can for myself. I get too worked up in what I need to do. I focus only on my life. While this may not be wholly wrong, I do think it is important to look around once in a while.
If you CAN, and you see someone in need of help, DO IT. If someone needs the door held, hold it. If someone needs help moving something, do it. If someone is hungry, feed them.