I’ve made a pact with myself to never refuse to help someone who tells me they are hungry. If someone asks for money it will largely depend on whether I have spare change. However if someone asks for food I will do whatever I can to help them out. If it means that I’d have to buy something with money I had for my own lunch, dinner, snack or whatever – I’d do it. You see I know that even if I go hungry for a couple hours I’ll always return home to a house with food. Not everyone has that luxury.
Last Sunday I stood by a flower kiosk at Victoria Station trying to decide which of the flower arrangements I wanted to buy for the wonderful family hosting me this week. It was a dead set competition between white and understated, colorful and vibrant and green and earthy. While I was lost in my thoughts a man walked directly to me. I’m not sure why he chose to approach me but a bit of me believes that it was because I was quite possibly the only person standing still in his immediate vicinity. I figured he was going to ask me for money and I started saying no before he could ask. I will confess that it wasn’t even because I didn’t have spare change. I was doing the judgmental thing. I was sizing him up, wondering if he would take the money and purchase liquor or drugs. I’d decided that he was and I thought that I wouldn’t waste my already limited spending money financing a drug habit. I feel shamed just typing that but in the spirit of frankness I had to put it in.
He stopped me as I started saying I had no change and said he didn’t want money but was asking for something to eat. I realized that there was something more important to be done than selecting the perfect bouquet so I told the woman at the kiosk I would be right back. I asked him to point out what he wanted and he took me to a stall and requested a sandwich and hot chocolate but when I asked him if he wanted anything else he politely declined. In those moments it was obvious he was afraid of asking for too much. Eventually he agreed to a chocolate muffin and a bottle of water as well. I paid and instinctively handed him the change. I don’t know what he will do with it. He may have used it for lunch or for dinner or for what I first suspected. In those moments it didn’t matter to me because for money I’d have probably used for something frivolous I was able to help someone in a less than ideal situation. And we’ve all been there. We’ve all had situations when we desperately needed someone to help us out. I may not have gone hungry but there have been moments when someone took time and effort to help me out of a tough spot. He tried to thank me but I told him I didn’t need it. We shouldn’t be patted on our backs or congratulated for being decent human beings. When I finally returned to the flower kiosk I chose the colorful and vibrant bouquet knowing that our world could be colorful and vibrant if we were all more compassionate.
I challenge you to try to perform at least three kind deeds per day. It need not cost us a thing. The kind deed may be a smile, a hug or a listening ear. Come on… pay it forward. There really isn’t much separating those who need help from those in the position to give it. Desperation is always one life turn away.