December 9, 2011

It Could Be You

I have a lot of friends who are very philanthropic and always share their abundance. I have always believed that if you come across a windfall of money you should give some away to someone or an organization that needs it. I am not sure if this is how I was raised. I don't give money to just anyone I see on the street but I have a certain empathy for people who have lost it all. I try to carry an extra piece of fruit or bar to share if I see someone who could use it. 

I think I learned this behavior from my dad. He's not someone who is a heart-bleeding liberal, at all. In fact he's practically a tea party member. But once, in high school, we were out to eat at some fast food chain (yes, this is before I learned to eat well). It was a very cold day, lots of snow and as we took our food to the table we both noticed a man who looked down on his luck, most likely homeless. Dad watched him for awhile and when he left, he said "Come on let's go" and we left quickly.

I had no idea what was going on but dad followed the guy and then got his attention and told him "You look like you could use some gloves." Dad gave him his gloves and some cash. That was it. He never made a big lesson out of it. Just briefly explained that sometimes you have to trust your gut.

I thought a lot about that. I have had a few times when I have been unemployed as an adult. Though those times were brief, I knew I would never be homeless or wanting for food.  I had my dad's support. As I grew older and have become better about saving money and looking after myself I know I could take care of myself for awhile. Yet, I still know in the back of my mind I have my dad. But what if I didn't. 

I have had an ongoing conversation with a few friends who tend to assume that homeless people are always alcoholic and addicts. So I always ask them a few questions:

  • How much money do you currently have saved?
  • If you lost your job and couldn't find work for six months could you stay in your home?
  • If you couldn't stay in your home would you have friends or family to turn to?
  • If your parents were deceased and you had no other family where would you stay?
  • When you overstayed your welcome at all of your friends house, where would you go?

My intention isn't to panic everyone or to ask you to donate money. It's just the introduction of an idea of empathy. My dad maybe a bit of a nut but he gifted me with the ability to look at things from another perspective.  It breaks my heart when people I love only see the homeless as people who screwed up and are too lazy to work. Sure, that's the case some times. However, just a few rolls of the dice and it could be you. 


Kate said...

This is really huge...I know there are people who basically choose homelessness as their lifestyle (ever read The Glass Castle?) but especially within the past few years, more and more are homeless suddenly and unexpectedly.

I feel like if I see someone who needs help (financial or otherwise) I'll help. Period. It doesn't matter how they got there, that's their karma. How I respond to them is mine.

Meredith LeBlanc said...

This is a beautiful story and lesson, thanks for sharing it with us T. These are words to live by.


Tali said...

Thank you Kate and Meredith. I appreciate your readership and your friendship.

You both help me walk the walk each day.

Jennifer Fields YogaLifeWay said...

Great reminder that "there but for the grace of God go I."

Susan DeBruin said...

It is easy to forgot how much of what we have is only due to someone else in our lives - as children we are born into this world with nothing but what our parents give us. At any point in our lives, things can turn south - and no matter out strong our support network may be, we could each easily end up with nothing. Thank you for this well written reminder of that.

Last spring, my husband and I survived one of the super tornadoes that destroyed so many lives. If not for the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers alike, we would be not be where we are today - in a new apartment, with plenty of food and clothes, and even some of our old belongings which were salvaged.

You never know how someone came to the situation they are in, but as Kate said above, "It doesn't matter how they got there, that's their karma. How I respond to them is mine."