December 29, 2009

I Did Something Selfish Today

Today I went grocery shopping. As I turned into the shopping center drive, there he was, an elderly man standing at the corner near the traffic light. His back was to me, but I could see that he held a cardboard sign and stood perched against a cane, his belongings on the ground beside him. I had seen him the last time I was there, but I brushed him off and prayed the light would turn when I approached, which it did. For the record, I am a very generous and kind-hearted person, but these days it is just so hard to know who is real, what is real. So when confronted with people who stand on the street corner and beg, I usually just look away, when what I really want to do is reach out.

The whole time I was shopping, he stayed in the back of my mind. I was reminded, as I am so many times when I see a homeless person, of my dear friend Jane and an encounter she and I had one day back in Baton Rouge. It was early morning and we had just left the television studio after doing a blurb about the cat rescue group we worked with. There was a McDonald's nearby so we decided to pop in for breakfast. As we walked to the door, we were met by a man begging for money. Jane casually, but compassionately, told him she did not have any money to give him, but if he was hungry, she would buy him breakfast. He gladly accepted her offer and walked inside McDonald's with us to place his order. The three of us sat and talked as we ate, mostly about his situation, his family and about God and faith. And Jane talked to this man like he was her friend, like he was worthy and important, and he was, no matter what his circumstance. Thinking about that day still brings tears to my eyes. Had it not been for Jane, I probably would have brushed that guy off too because of fear of getting involved. Maybe that's what wrong with the world these days. So many people are afraid of getting involved. How did we get to this point?

By the time I finished my shopping and got into my car, I had made up my mind I was going to give the man on the corner a few dollars. I didn't care how he would use the money; I was doing it to make ME feel better. After all, there is a fine line between being selfish and being selfless, isn't there? I pulled three dollars out of my wallet and approached the intersection where he stood. I intentionally let someone pull out in front of me so I would get stopped at the light and be forced to follow through with my plan. As I got nearer, I rolled down my window and held out my hand with the cash neatly folded. He hobbled over to me with a smile and then I noticed what his sign said. It said, "Can you help me find a job?" There was no dog beside him to pull at my heart strings; he wasn't sitting on the ground with his head hung low; he didn't appear to be drunk. He simply needed a job and was not too humble to stand on the street corner and plead for one. I smiled and told him I didn't have a job for him but I had a few bucks to give. He thanked me and blessed me and he said he really wished he could find a job. Then it dawned on me. I remembered the Safeway down the street had recently posted a flyer on their door that they were hiring all positions, due to a labor strike. I told the man about that and he seemed genuinely grateful. He said he would go there in the early morning and check it out. He thanked me again and I drove away.

Will he actually follow my tip and go? Does he really want to work? I have no idea. But I do know that if I go into that Safeway in the future and find him working there, that three dollars will be the best money I ever spent in an act of selfishness.

9 comments:

inadvertent farmer said...

Oh you have touched my heart...those people with the signs break my heart but I like you have always wondered what they would use the cash for if I gave it...

I used to keep gift certificates to local restaurants in my car to give to the homeless...I need to start doing it again.

Thanks for the wonderful post. Kim

LiveWorkDream said...

Beautiful story Lilla, thank you.

You never know how you may have changed that man's life, but in some small way, your brief interaction set him off on a course he wouldn't have otherwise traveled down. I know that it's a better one than if you hadn't have stopped at all.

Lilla said...

Kim....I think keeping gift certificats in your car is a terrific idea! How wonderful that would make someone feel who has fallen on hard times.

Rene...I hope that what you say is true. If we give up our faith in humanity, there really isn't much left, is there?

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awwww, that story touched my heart. Good for you.
It will be tough for that man to get hired, though. Most companies want an address...and if he is homeless, he has none. :^(


(((HUGS)))
~Lisa

ps Happy New Year. I hope it brings you much happiness, good health and success, too.

Lilla said...

Thanks, Lisa. We can only hope for the best in situations like these. I would love to walk in the door of that Safeway and see his face, though!

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

What a sweet post, Lilla. It brought tears to my eyes. You did a sweet thing - and I hope you walk into that Safeway and see him working there in the future!

Lilla said...

Thanks, Penny. Wouldn't that be so cool if I did see him at the Safeway one day? You can bet I'll do a post about it if I do!

AJ-OAKS said...

Very nice post about your kindness. I also hope that the gentleman went and applied for the job.

You are much nicer and kinder than I am towards homeless folks. Yes, I admit it, when it comes to homeless people, well, I have a hard heart. Years ago, raising three kids on my own, working two jobs to make ends meet, I went grocery shopping one morning. Saw a 'homeless' couple begging for food. Being on a very limited income ( I did not have help from the State ie food stamps,etc), I managed to squeeze in some food for the 'homeless' couple. I drove up to them, handed them the bag of food, drove off, looked in my rearview mirror and saw them throw that bag of food into the garbage can! There have been other instances that have made me grow cold when it comes to the homeless. My hat is off to you.

Lilla said...

AJ-OAKS...I know there are a lot of scam artists out there. And my little $3 "donation" to the man was nowhere near as generous as you giving a bag of groceries to that couple. Wow, I would have been really ticked off if that had happened to me! I probably would have gone up to them with some choice words and started digging my groceries out of the trash! You have every right to be skeptical.