I’m indecisive about wether I want to write about this, or not. Theres a fine blurry line between staying humble, and inspiring others to follow after you, in your generous endeavors.
I have decided to write about it anyways (at risk of appearing boastful) as a means of documentation. Later I can look back on this post, and this day, and remember both where I came from, and what type of person I was. May my future self be proud.
I’ll open with some background on me, I do not make a lot of money. I make enough to get by, plus maybe a little extra. Since I don’t have debt from school or anything else, any extra money from the paycheck (or tax returns more likely) goes into my small savings account I set up a few years ago. Assuming its not eaten alive by bills and life itself.
Today I felt led, as I often do, to reach out to someone in need. I was extremely hesitant, as I always am. Not that money is an issue for me, or that I am afraid to help people. But seeing someone on a street corner, I can only wonder, by giving them money am I enabling them? This can seem like a cruel thought, but consider with me the possibilities.
This man or woman, might have been offered real work they turned down, or they have a full time job, but make more money on the street corner. Perhaps they’re not exactly homeless, they just struggle paying the bills with their alcohol addiction, or other substance abuse. I look at a full grown man, and can’t help but think: If he has a job, he might make just as much money as I do.. in which case, giving him twenty dollars is just enabling his tobacco addiction.. Then I just want to walk up and tell them, we all have difficult lives! Own up to your mistakes and fix them! Stop begging for handouts!
While I am sure there are probably people on street corners begging for really bad reasons, it is never up to me to judge them.
Regardless, I don’t like just handing out money to someone, for them to potentially spend it on another pack of cigarettes.
I am a God fearing man however, and when that tiny little voice, dominates my thoughts and asks: Are you really going to argue about this with me?.. As I sit in my warm car in the pouring rain, watching other people drive by this (no doubt, confused) soul on the sidewalk…
I must listen.
“What do you need”?
Is what I was told to ask them, with no promise of any return.
“I’m just curious”.
I backed up my statement with a cover phrase of innocence. I awaited a shady response, a skeptical stare. The inquiry of: Why do you care what I need money for?
None of which I received.
The back of their cardboard sign, upside down, read: Smile.
Clearly these people had done this before.
You know, when you’re nervous for something?
And then as soon as it starts, the nerves go away?
Your adrenaline suddenly does what it’s supposed to?
Everything sorta falls into place.. and it just feels right?
“Food for the week, and oil.”
I was so happy with the straight honest answer she gave me. No scent of alcohol on her tongue. I went on to ask if they had jobs, Her and the man, who I later learned was her husband. He did, sorta. Small jobs whenever he could get them. She was trying to collect disability again, for the scoliosis she had been born with, along with other illnesses I do not remember. She had held jobs before, just not recently. They live in a tent, in the field behind the store. The store that owned the parking by which they sat.
I offered to take them to the store. Told them I would buy them whatever they needed.
I found it beautiful, almost poetic, the first thing they went for, in all the store, was oil.
Not car oil, like I first assumed. Lamp Oil. They have an oil lamp. It heats their tent, and provides light when needed. Next to the oil was a broad selection of candles. Upon Her request, He grabbed two of those tall skinny ‘Jesus Candles’.. The Catholic looking ones, with angels and the virgin Mary printed on the side. They grabbed two matching ones with, the Son of God himself printed thereon, and put Jesus in the cart next to the oil.
After Jesus and Oil, they took me to the food section, and filled my cart with a weeks worth of the cheapest TV dinners in the store. I had told them I would buy them whatever they needed, and they gathered the bare minimum, spare the pack of almond joys, for which she apologized. I told her not to worry, if anyone understands the need for candy, it’s me.
Seriously though, the cheapest food items.
TV dinners.. dehydrated noodles.. off-brand soda..
Granted, what else do you eat when you don’t have a place to cook a full meal, and you don’t own a fridge, but still.. I offered to buy them whatever they needed.
Whatever.. they needed.
They were ready to check out, but it was just after noon. I told them to get something hot and fresh for that moment. We went to the deli, and they got a Tub of diced vegetables, roast chicken, and potato wedges. While they stood there, deciding what they wanted to eat, the lady behind the counter asked if she could help me, instead.
“I’m with them”.
I said with a smile.
She was a little bit shocked, but the look on her face showed: she knew what was going on, with me and them, but was done making assumptions.
I was standing there in a cotton Owl City v-neck, crisp dark blue skinny jeans, a clean black snapback, and a timbuk2 man-purse.
They were both very clearly off the street corner. Torn pants, old shoes, faded winter coats, and hats, completely soaked through.
In line to check out, The man asked if he could put batteries in the cart.
I said, “Absolutely.”
They were so joyful.
“We have flashlights with no batteries”.
I believer her. They light their tent with an oil lamp.
The roast chicken from the deli, had not been properly tagged. The clerk gave it to us for free.
“Maybe God is with us”.
They were honestly two of the most polite people I have met. They thanked everyone they spoke too. They were extremely grateful. They were kind.
Thirty Six dollars.
I spend more than that, on a weeks worth of food, for myself..
..and that doesn’t include batteries, or lamp oil, or Jesus Candles.
Before I left them, after checking out, they went to eat their fresh food at the indoor seating area next to the deli.
I approached her with a twenty dollar bill.
I told her life is temporary.
I told her, when you believe in God, an eternity awaits us.
I told her I would pray for them.
I told her to stay out of the cold, have a great rest of the week, and I hope Jesus Blesses you.
She said: “He already has”.
She wiped tears from her eyes, and just stared, with nothing more to say than Thank you.
I told her, “God bless you”.
As I started to leave, He waved at me and said:
“God bless you too”.
I turned around and pointed at them both, to confirm I knew their names.
“Crystal.. and Jesse?.. Excellent.”
I said with a smile as I walked away.
Several strangers looked on, completely and utterly dumbfounded.
It was fantastic.
If you made it this far, Reader, welcome to the closing.
If all it takes is fifty six dollars, to change someones life forever, even if the initial joy only lasts for that day; it’s worth it.
It’s fifty six dollars I would have spent on sour patch kids, or an extra coffee, or something pointless on amazon.
But having someone brought to tears..
Showing them, at the lowest point in their life, that someone cares…
…Nothing is more beautiful.
I told her:
“I have never been in your shoes;
but, I would like to think if I was,
someone else would do the same”
So I ask you.. Reader..
If you lost, everything..
Could you survive a week, with nothing more, than what you’ve given this past year?
I would like to think I could.