I witnessed a humanity reassuring, humble, unprovoked act of kindness the other night. While I say it’s unprovoked, I think the reality is it was actually provoked, provoked by someone who was taught to be generous to those who are less fortunate than us and have it in their heart to act.
I was at a street Fest last Sunday and as I was leaving a rain storm blew through the area. So much for finding a cab or Uber to get home, so I decided to take the bus. It was taking quite a while for the bus to show up causing a big crowd of people waiting at the stop. I noticed a homeless man sitting under the canopy just hanging out. I’m guessing he had nowhere to go and did not want to be in the rain. Living in a big city you get pretty used to seeing the homeless and them begging for money, so it really did not faze me to see him here. As I was waiting, I happened to notice a 20 something year old man leave his two friends and sit down next to the homeless guy. He quietly went into his backpack, pulled out a couple of snack bars and discreetly slid them over to him. Once the homeless guy took them, he got back up and rejoined his friends. Not a word to anyone and no overt action to draw attention to his generosity. I don’t even think his friends knew what he had done. Like a lightning bolt, it knocked me into reality since at that moment all I could think about was the inconvenience of having to wait for a long time to catch a bus due to the rain. Wow, that’s rough but not as rough as this homeless guy has it. Even though it was not much, I was inspired to give the guy a some money to help him along. I usually don’t do that since I believe there are better ways to help the homeless but maybe this was just what he needed to get by for another day and hopefully turn his life around. I was glad for the inconvenience since as a result I witnessed this kindness. In addition, I now have a nice story to counterbalance my generation (youngish baby-boomer) stereotypical complaints about the “Millennials” as being self-centered, dependent and entitled. Like all generations before us who have complained about the younger generation and all their faults, I think this is an indication we will be OK with this one.
This reminded me of something that happened to me that changed my logic as to whether to give or not to give to the homeless. I do on occasion give to the homeless even though it’s been proven that the best way to help them is by supporting social services for them. Quite often I get mad when I see them begging since my first reaction is to think, I work hard why don’t they? I’m not giving to these lazy bums! Knowing that most of the homeless suffer from addition issues and/or mental issues, I try not to let these judgmental thoughts get in the way of being empathetic to their situation, but they do.
So to get to why I give once in a while, it’s because an encounter I had years ago while working on a Jimmy Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity. I was sitting down eating lunch with a bunch of people I did not know. I got talking to the guy next to me when we engaged in a conversation about the poor, homeless and other issues. During the course of this conversation, he then told me that he had been a heroin attic on the streets of New York for 7 years. He said it was only through the acts of kindness of strangers giving him money and food that he survived those 7 years before he got himself cleaned up and his life turned around. Holy cow, not that changed my mind on my beliefs on giving to the homeless! After all, here was real life evidence that it not only helped this man, but now years later, he is helping build homes for less fortunate people. Very inspiring to say the least. While I know a case like this is fairly rare, if your heart says give and your logical mind says don’t, I believe you should go with your heart. You can’t go wrong and you might just do right. Your call.