Monday, December 21, 2009

Feel Good...

I don't give to charity, as a rule. I stopped doing that-if I ever did, I don't remember-a long time ago when I knew this guy that was literally on his last meal. He had nowhere to turn and knew he was destined soon to move into a cardboard villa overlooking the river. This friend imparted to me some time later, I'm sure because of embarrassment, that in desperation, he had gone to the huge United Way building downtown in hopes of some help. Feeling out of place in the resplendent lobby, and fishing for a way to ask the receptionist for some sort of assistance, she alleviated the awkwardness of the moment by speaking first. "Sir, you will have to leave".
When he asked if this wasn't a charitable organization where he could perhaps get a meal or a place to sleep for a few nights till he got work, she told him in no uncertain terms that they didn't do that sort of thing in that building...and again to "please leave".

Of course I did everything I could to help and he eventually got back on his feet, but the memory of that humiliation he endured always stuck in my head. I have been "charity-shy" ever since.

Today I went down to the store to get peanuts for the squirrels. On the way I passed a woman in her mid-30's that was a dead-ringer for one of those photo-essay subjects of the first Great Depression. She was shabbily dressed, standing in the cold and holding a cardboard sign that I didn't even read...I knew what it said by looking at her. I got the peanuts, but all the while in the store, the image of her worry-worn face bothered me. Perhaps it was supposed to. Anyway, on the way home, I purposely went around through parking lots and down a side street to come up to her corner again and rolled down the window to push a ten at her. She god-blessed me and all, but then I noticed her eyes. They looked as if they had been weeping for years. Not redness. Not puffy. But the saddest eyes I have ever seen in person. It shook me by the shoulders as I drove off.

Did I feel better as you are supposed to when helping those less fortunate? I suppose, in a sad way.
Was she as she appeared? Did she just need another drink? Was it a scam? I dunno, but I guess that doesn't matter. Whatever she was...maybe the ten helped. I know her eyes will haunt me into humility for a long time to come.

It's starting to snow again. Merry Christmas every one...


RW said...

"I know her eyes will haunt me into humility for a long time to come."

Those same eyes also say:

I am not afraid to ask you to share, NOW.

Sort of a cosmic holiday discount.

A turn the lights back up sale?

You got much more than you paid $10 for.

Thats how it works NOW.

timster said...

Much, much more...