I had a moment today. It was uncomfortable and entirely unexpected on many levels.
In a way it started with the election. On the issue of giving to the poor and others who need it. In a massively-general nutshell, two main approaches are giving to private charities, who then give to those in need, and paying more taxes to the government, who gives via programs. While I tend to prefer the former in theory, it dawned on me that I pretty much suck at giving on my own, mostly due to my own lack of forethought and planning. So I've been mulling over the whole idea of how I can give more to people who need it, and how we can give more as a family.
His Highness and I went to church today (the Cat Daddy was working), followed by a couple of errands. On the way into Home Depot we passed a guy on the streetcorner, wheelchair bound, holding a dog on his lap and a sign reading "Please help a vet in need and his dog."
I really, really wanted to help this guy out. It was the dog. Pets get me every time. But I don't carry cash, so there went that. And I thought of a myriad of other reasons why I couldn't/shouldn't do something to help. So I continued into the store, in search of my little piece of hardware.
Speaking of which, I think the staff must have been really, really bored today. They were so nice and helpful that I felt a little smothered. They asked what I was looking for, and were radioing all over the place, asking me to describe what a cross dowel was, and I was like, "Can you just tell me where the hardware is?" I knew exactly what I was looking for, and with this sort of thing I actually enjoy the hunt. It makes me feel all capable and stuff. But they were insistent on helping, so I let them lead me to the hardware aisle and show me the cross dowels, which were all in metric, where the one I need is in standard units, and I've already tried substituting one that's "really close" unsuccessfully, so I said "Thanks for looking; I'll look for it online."
I still needed some AA's, so I grabbed those and checked out. As I hit "no cash back" the guy with the sign popped back into my mind. Very determinedly. And, you know, thoughts along the line of "well Skerrib, you've been wondering how you can find ways to give," and so on. In a way that told me they would not go away.
And then I remembered my secret stash. In my checkbook, which I hardly ever carry with me. But today I had it, and as it turned out I had a $20 bill in my stash. So I decided to give it to him. I can think of a million different reasons not to go and give out cash, most of which involve folks using it for entirely useless purposes...but it sort of didn't matter if I was about to get duped--I just had one of those strong senses that I needed to do it this particular time. The kind of sense that you don't mess with; you just go with it.
So I did. I pulled out of the parking lot and up to the corner, and I walked up to the guy and said "Hi, my husband's in the Air Force, and I love dogs, so please take this and spend it well." I felt totally dumb, but it was what it was. And he said thanks and God bless, and I said God bless back.
The problem was that I made eye contact with him. As I said hi he lifted his eyes...and he was not the classic scary or insane-looking guy. It sounds all touchy-feely to say, but I was struck by the simple fact of his humanity. I felt disoriented by this, and hurried back to the car and pulled away, giving a little wave & a nod. And out of nowhere I started to cry. This was strange because I'm not normally one who feels so deeply for a person's plight that I'm moved to tears. I will cry in a split second for an animal though, so perhaps it was the dog. It was a very cute little dog.
I dunno, maybe it was hormones and fatigue, but somehow that 5-second interaction affected me rather deeply. Whether or not this guy was for real, it made me feel for all the people who are in need...some are crazy and scary, and some are needy for a reason, and some are fairly normal people who have been really, really unfortunate. So on the way home I cried for the homeless, and hungry, and needy people, because of the simple fact that they're people. Then I pulled up in my nice car to my nice house, and pulled myself together because I had a kiddo to feed, and so on.
So that was my moment. It came out of nowhere and whacked me over the head. Maybe I helped the guy & his dog eat or stay warm somehow, or maybe he went & bought some beer, I don't know. Like I said though, this particular time it didn't matter...