Charity: Blind, but not Dumb

A kid about 19 or 20 comes up to me as I’m leaving the grocery store. I’m pushing a cart with two bags of groceries and an empty cardboard shipping box. He stands in front of me as I reach my car. Skinny, torn tank top, tattooed, gauges in each ear, he’s sweating in the evening heat.

He points to the parking lot and says, “That’s my green truck over there. I’m outta gas. I’m not lying. Can you help me with some change?”

He’s not a poster child for clean-cut charity. He could easily be hitting me up so he can buy booze, drugs, bad-for-you burgers. He steps back, squats down. It’s a calculated move. He’s done this before. Squatting makes it less likely he’ll grab my purse.  And the grocery cart is now between us.

I reach for my wallet. My credit cards are separate, and I don’t have a lot of cash.. Even if he took it all, he couldn’t fill up a truck’s empty gas tank. I hand him a dollar. He takes it. Closer now, he repeats, “I’m not lying.” There is something heartbreaking about this. I know about unemployment, about being discounted, about not knowing where the gas money is coming from.

I smile at him. “Bless you” I say and load my groceries into the trunk.

Each of us is capable of giving someone a blessing. No requirement to be ordained, no need to be minister, shaman or even holy. A blessing is a gift that costs nothing to give.

I’ve had the giving-a-stranger-money discussion often with friends. In my mind,  all I need to have or know is my intention to help. It is not my business to judge, or tell the giver how the money should be used.  After I give, it belongs to the receiver.

In addition to blessing him, I received a blessing of sharing. Not a bad way to end the working day.

—Quinn McDonald believes in paying it forward. And backward and sideways. Times are tough. We all need a blessing.

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16 thoughts on “Charity: Blind, but not Dumb

  1. 🙂 I am a giver. My beloved is not.

    We have had discussions about whether the money I give is helping people buy alcohol or something else. I think that when I give money I am seeing the person and I am giving freely because I get more out of the giving than the person receives. I also think when I truly give to see someone, I don’t get to dictate how the money is spent or how it should be spent. I do my best not to make judgments on what has the brought the person to the corner or the car park. They just are, the same way I am. Sometimes we could all do with been seen.

    Sometimes I also need to be balanced by my beloved. Sometimes I don’t always recognise that at the time.

    • When we give a friend a gift, let’s say of flowers, we don’t dictate what to do with it, or what vase to put it in. The same applies to strangers. Our job is to give. Our job ends when they accept.

  2. There were two kids with extravagant hair happily sort of bouncing and juggling on the corner, one of them holding a sign that said “Traveling. Broke and hungry.” I think I might have created a story for them to tell when I beckoned them over and handed them some money, then drove along before they discovered it was $100. I don’t have the resources to do it all the time, but sometimes I like to create happy surprises. Every one in a while I tip 200%. One ongoing regret I have is that when I won the lottery (I did, by the way) I didn’t think to give the ticket away.

    To quote Clint, “Deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”

    • And excellent idea, Pete, and what a surprise when it happens! When I see homeless people standing at the freeway exits, day after day in 112-degree heat, I never think of them as lazy. I think of them as hot. I also know that two clients who don’t pay on time, and I could be next.

  3. This may be cynical but I prefer to “help” knowing I am really helping. I don’t want to support standing on the street corner or freeway ramps. I volunteer with Boy Scouts, give to people I know need a hand up and are “working” (job or not) make ends meet. There are so many individuals out there who are not really in need. I know of a few of these in our local community. It makes me sad and angry to think they would take from my own “need” without doing anything other than standing on the corner begging and then drive home in their new pickup truck. I understand jobs are scarce, we have had our own share of troubles, but I want to help those who help themselves – honestly.

  4. I used to work in a downtown area and would spend a good part of my lunch hour walking for exercise. I was often asked for help of some kind, mostly money but a couple of times for food and once for a blanket! My response when asked for money was to take all the cash out of my wallet, hand it to the person and say, Take what you need. Not once did I ever have someone take all the money. Always the person would take a few dollars and hand me back the rest. I was often blessed and once got a kiss on the cheek.

  5. talking about giving a blessing. yesterday at work one of our ‘better’ clients (aka sensible) said, as he left, take the rest of the day off, Phil, and blessings to you. I was uplifted!! we all should give more blessings. and we should all be kinder to each other.

  6. Your kindness and respect made that man’s day a little less harsh than it would normally be for him. I doubt that anyone wants to go up to strangers and ask for help, but sometimes there is no other solution. Jobs are not abundant, the unemployment rate is frightening. Companies are laying off employees at an alarming rate. There is no easy solution to this person’s and so many others dilema. It costs nothing to be kind and if you are able to give some spare cash, it’s a double bonus. It would be wonderful to be able to help many more, but it just isn’t possible all the time. Whilst I can’t always offer some spare cash, I have in situations been able to give someone a bus ticket to help them get where they are going. Some days a bus ticket and a smile can mean the world to another person.

  7. This is such a lovely solution and one I feel very comfortable acting upon. I’ve had a dilemma about this for a while and I’m grateful for your wisdom. Thank you.

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