I had about $50 in my wallet and with time to kill while repairs were made to my car’s interior, I split my time between a local coffee joint and, when I got hungry, the only food available within a 15-block radius. Burger King.
Located in the industrial part Portland, it was a fairly dicey looking place. Still, I was only three hours into my six-hour wait and didn’t see many options since I was toting my laptop and some books.
[Disclaimer: I tend to be pretty soft-hearted when it comes to sharing cash, particularly with someone I perceive to be in need. My husband likes to tell people that I once slipped a $20 into the bedding of a man who was sleeping in the alcove of my bank’s ATM machine when I went for cash early one winter Sunday morning in Los Angeles. He also notes that my gauge for giving money is whether or not the person has “meth” teeth. Even though they likely need it, I hesitate to support someone’s drug habits.]
Back to Burger King. I ate a quick nondescript lunch and pulled out my laptop to write for a while, looking up only occasionally. What I saw sobered me, though, and my $7 lunch quickly became a $47 story for my husband to add to his repertoire.
A young woman from the Ukraine, I think, as there are many Ukranian immigrants in the Portland area, came into the restaurant with her three children. She bought herself lunch and sent her eldest, a boy about ten years old, to fetch refills for her large soft drink throughout the meal, which she doled out to the children along with her lunch. I heard her son asking for french fries and she sent him to see how much they were. $1.00 was too much for her to spend and the boys went without their desired fries.
I couldn’t stand it, even though it was a less than healthy request, and went to her table to offer her $20, asking her to please take it. She hesitated, thentold me no, she had enough money. After I told her I had enough to share, she finally accepted it and sent her oldest son off to buy lunch for all three children. She ate the remains of her own lunch and then her daughter’s because the young girl wouldn’t eat anything except a couple of fries.
I returned to my laptop, watching the comings and goings of people more than actual work. There were several, many, people who seemed to be in need, but it was an older woman, about my age, with bright red lipstick, very dirty hands and legs and tangled hair, who caught my interest most. She had only a cup of water in front of her. She accepted a $20 readily when I offered it and asked me if it was for her birthday. I responded that it was, and for mine, too, which had been only a few days earlier. It made her smile, as it did me.
Out of money, I moved back to the coffee place and read happily over another latte until they came to tell me my car was ready.
It’s such a small thing for me to give money to someone else when you have it and can see that they need it. It feels good and right now I can use all the “feeling good” I can get; they are doing me as much a favor as I them. It’s disheartening to see so many people homeless and in need in a country where some people are more concerned about their enormous bonus checks than the well-being of others. When did we become so blind to those other people?
I often think how good it would feel to walk around handing out $100 bills to people. Just like I think about funding new facilities and a trust for our local no-kill shelter, and how I want to have a big barn and take in all the stray cats I can find, neutering/spaying/vaccinating and giving them a forever home, or funding a school for the children of the homeless, or giving out scholarships for everyone who wants to go to college, or ….. the list is endless.
I’m going to need more than $47 and some extra fries.
Added 9/3: It’s in our interest to take care of others. Self-centredness is opposed to basic human nature. In our own interest as human beings we need to pay attention to our inner values. Sometimes people think compassion is only of help to others, while we get no benefit. This is a mistake. When you concern yourself with others, you naturally develop a sense of self-confidence. To help others takes courage and inner strength.
~ Dalai Lama