An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maybe is Good Enough for Me

"Please, Miss, can we have some money for food?"

I had just come out of Hobby Lobby when I was approached by a twelve year old girl pushing a battered umbrella stroller, and with her was an overweight woman carrying an eight month old and another younger woman. They all looked poor and unkempt.

"Where do you want to eat?" I asked.

"Anywhere," said the girl.

I was hungry, too. It was almost 1:30 and I was in a hurry to get home. I even knew exactly what I was going to have for lunch: toasted ciabatta, tomatoes, cheese, and a cold glass of water with a slice of lemon. No worries on my part ... it was all there waiting for me.

But this little girl was worried enough to ask a stranger for help.

Food. Water. Shelter. Safety. Such basics in life, and yet many people don't have them. As we walk around our nice city, living our lives and relaxing in our homes, it is tempting to ignore the man on the side of I-20 with a Will Work for Food sign, or a bag lady pushing a shopping cart, or a hungry girl in a parking lot because, after all, we aren't in Africa, or Indonesia, or Haiti, or Calcutta.

And because we aren't faced with situations like these on a daily basis, it is easy to become suspicious, fearful, and even judgmental. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone is so much more than what we see ... that everyone has a story.

I didn't know that little girl's story; all I knew was that she was hungry, so I gave them what they needed.

Was I conned? Maybe I was ... but then again, maybe I wasn't.

The fact is I don't know.

The fact is ... does it really matter? I had something that maybe they needed, and maybe was good enough for me.

“One would give generous alms if one had the eyes to see the beauty of a cupped receiving hand.”

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Lisa said...

I used to be really suspicious of "beggars" ~ and there are a lot in the Denver area where I grew up. I never gave them anything, assuming the chances were good that they'd just go get cheep booze with it and, seriously! -- there are a couple really good "rescue missions" that have always provided plenty for those folks.... But, my husband (who was born with a natural, deep down kindness and better common sense than I was), always found something to give. This kinda irritated me until he told me why: he figured God judged him and the recipient of his charity separately. And it was wrong for him to judge so harshly someone he really knew nothing about. Ouch. He got me. I now find something to give any time I pass someone with their hand extended.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

I once went on a church planting mission trip to Manhattan. Each morning, I walked to Starbuck's for a glass of milk and a bagel.

I saw the same man sleeping on the window ledge of a bank. So on one of the mornings I was there, I bought something, a muffin perhaps, and left it for when he woke.

My sister is homeless. I tell people that so people know it can happen to "normal folks." She has a mental illness, if you were to meet her at a family gathering, you would find her charming and creative, but even with the best guidance and finances, she fell apart.

None of us knows where she is. Her 19-year-old daughter lives with us now. We hoped that she'd realize that she needed help each time she was evicted. Instead her illness has cut her off from all of us.

It's hard to understand. It's hard to help. I think of her all the time.

So thank you for helping that family without judging. Sometimes the people closest to them run out of ways to help, and it's, well...hard.

tiziana said...

Quando si aiuta qualcuno non si sbaglia mai. A volte forse è meglio comperare del cibo o dei vestiti così si è più sicuri che qualche cosa andrà davvero a quei bambini poveri.

GrandmaK said...

I can only say, "Well done!" I have done the same thing. Found I had been conned but had the satisfaction of doing what I should to help those in need as I saw it!!! And though it seems trite, the saying WWJD does come to mind. I am so proud to know you!!!! Cathy

Suburban Correspondent said...

I always keep gift cards to local eateries (bagel shops, Starbucks) in my purse. That way, I can give one to someone who asks and not worry that it might be spent on alcohol or drugs.

Once I gave one to an older woman who was sitting in the bagel shop, talking to herself and looking quite disoriented. Her husband was quite perturbed when he returned to the table with their food. Very embarrassing.

Do Not Be Anxious said...

My favorite gift was when I stopped at a McDonald's and noted a very grungy man sitting in the corner. With no one else present, I asked the manager if he comes in here often. He replied, "Everyday, to buy a coffee and sit all morning with refills." I gave him a $20 and told him to buy him breakfast for the next week. He said he'd match me.

If you wish to read a wonderful story about what hunger really is, read the book Kisses From Katie, about 22-year-old Katie Davis, in Uganda, who has adopted 14 children and now lives there. She sees hunger.

Father Pablo said...

Thanks for sharing this with me. I oftentimes wonder about week-long mission trips that go far away from home to help others when there is so much that can be done helping the poor right around the corner in our own city.
When we help others, there is always the risk the person is lying and not using the money we give for the right reason, yet we help because of our own calling as Christians.
I'm glad my homily gave you something to meditate on!