I experienced something today, and I am sure that most of you have experienced it numerous times in your lives.
I was sitting at a red light at a busy intersection when I saw a man, poorly dressed, walking to the car in front of me.
He motioned for the driver to roll down the passenger window, and the driver obliged. There was an exchange of words, the window went back up, and the man walked on an uncertain path to another car. The same event occurred. He motioned for the driver to roll the window down--only this time, the driver refused. He moved on to a minivan. He motioned for the woman to roll the window down. She rolled it down a few centimeters, there was an exchange of words, the window rolled back up, and he continued on an erratic path. This time he went to a truck. The same event ensued...and looking defeated, he moved underneath a shaded tree near the intersection.
I watched closely wondering what this was about.
It was my turn to move forward. I went through the stop sign and approached the light--which was red. I was the second in line. I saw him approaching my car out of the corner of my eye.
I rolled my window down just enough to hear him. He asked for money for food with unclear speech, and at this distance I noted his poor hygiene. I started to give out an excuse when he said, 'Please'.
I paused. I knew that I did actually have a little cash in my wallet, so I pulled out a few dollars and gave it to him. He said thank you and continued on an unsure path.
He walked back over to the tree, and then back in front of my car, and he blew me a kiss as he went on his way.
I sat for a moment and thought about what had just happened. This was not a new event in my life. I have given a few dollars to people that have asked before. I have given food to people with signs saying that they were hungry.
But this time stuck with me.
Because I had observed many people turn their backs. And I get it--I almost did too.
I am in no way promoting doing something that might be dangerous to you to help someone else. This world is unsafe. You have to be careful. But I left with a few lingering thoughts.
Most of us have a few dollars to spare. This would be a morning Starbucks run (which I am totally guilty of...), or a cheap toy that you buy for your child (guilty of that one too).
So if I have it to spare--and he needs it to eat--isn't that a no brainer?
Now...many people argue that these people do the 'homeless act' and make tons of money doing it.
That is part of giving. You GIVE. You don't lend to this person only if they do with it what you want them to do with it. If someone will actually sit on the side of the road begging for money--who am I to judge if they really need it or not?
It is called compassion.
And I felt it when I looked into this poor little mans eyes.
He had been turned down four times in a span of 1 minute. I had witnessed it.
Will I miss those few dollars? Probably not. Will I forever remember his smile before he looked at me and blew that kiss? Probably.
I remember a day in college when I was heading home and a man asked me for money at a gas station. I asked him what he needed it for and he confessed cigarettes. I turned him down. I still feel guilty about it. He actually told me the TRUTH, and I told him no.
I have said it before, and will again--all of us are one minute away from desperation. A job loss, a house fire, a sickness, a divorce...it can happen in.an.instant.
I hope that when I experience desperation in my life, there are people full of compassion right beside me. Because I will experience desperation in some way, shape, or form. It happens.
Our lives are full of ups and downs. Mountains and valleys. We would never know the beauty that exists on top of a mountain, unless we had experienced the extensive flat view in the valleys.
I am reading the book, '7 an experimental mutiny against excess', by Jen Hatmaker.
In it, she has chosen 7 areas of her life that she feels are excessive. Food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress.
For one month, she simplified her life in one of these areas. For example, she only ate 7 foods, or wore only 7 articles of clothing for a month. I cannot put the book down. It is such a reality check on how completely and totally excessive our lives can be.
Here is one quote from the book, "How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4 percent. $50,000? Top 1 percent.) Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We're tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? "
Now... I do not think that there is anything wrong with having nice things! But I think that sometimes we get caught up in 'things' and lose what really is important in life. Isn't there something so nice and freeing about simplicity? Isn't the rat race of 'keeping up with the Jones' exhausting?
I think that some of my happiest memories are from sitting on my grandparents back porch swing, chatting, and enjoying the breeze. Simple. Free.
I have heard this quote, and truly love it, "You will never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul".
You can't take it with you, folks.
So take care of your loved ones...without excess, and then help someone else along the way.
That will mean way more to them, and to you, than the next best dress in fashion.