Today I was Shameful

CashInHandI’m working late tonight. Actually, staying late at my day job to work on the finishing touches of my masters thesis.

I left the building at 7:30 to run across the street and grab some chai tea and something to eat.

A dishevelled woman looking about 50 years old came in and methodically walked table to table – clearly asking for food or money.

I judiciously tried to avoid her and thought I had succeeded as she headed out the door. Then she spotted me…and came back in.

Her: Can you spare some change?
Me: No. I don’t have any change. I’m sorry. (I lied. I had 2 toonies, 3 loonies and a five dollar bill in my pocket)

Her: I’m living on the street.
Me: (I look at her matted hair, dirty clothes and the cut on her lip) I can sympathize with you but I can’t help you out.
Her: Sure you can, you can help me out with some food. I’m hungry.
Me: I’m sorry. I just have this coffee. (I lied again. I had ordered food to-go and was just waiting for it to be done.)
Her: (long silence, she turned and left the restaurant)

I wrestled with the shame and disgust I had felt in my own actions and words.

But it wasn’t too late to remedy. I thought “maybe I can buy something with this $5 bill.” But I knew that was a cop out and almost as disgustingly dismissive as the original lie. ‘What could I buy?’ wasn’t the lesson.

And then it came to me: I asked for another pita and another bowl. I took it out to share my supper with her.

It took me a while to find her, it was like she had disappeared. I walked with that hot meal-in-a-bag for 3 blocks before I found her and relieved my guilt.

She took it. Smiled – toothless – and walked away with a hot meal.

I sit here at the desk of my well-paying job and eating my food thinking I probably can’t even finish this half portion that I have.

I was an asshole in that moment. She and I both new it.

That’s what I needed today. I needed to be reminded that I have so much. That others have so little.

And that generous and humble are the right and only things to be.

3 responses to “Today I was Shameful

  1. I can relate, but I’ve also been burned too many times by people “looking for coffee money”, get it, then turn around and ask everyone else for the same thing. So their one coffee has now become 20-30.. obviously they’re not looking for just a hot beverage to keep warm. Or someone asking for money for the train, the list goes on. I know there are really people in need out there, but I’ve heard from cops, social workers, etc the best thing to do is to give the money to social programs who will responsibly use the money to help them. Of course, it’s their choice whether or not they’ll use those programs, but I hope those who are truly in need (and not out to find money for booze, drugs, gambling, etc) will actually use those programs.

    Although I have to respect one homeless man I once met in San Francisco who was honest and told everyone he “wanted money for pussy”…

  2. Thanks for being humble to share this story! It helps us to be open to others, eventhough it’s not in our ”habits” in the first place, we should always reconsider our positions, that’s how we should be living the present moment!
    Bless you!

  3. And of course if I was living on the street I would like something stronger than a coffee, probably most of the time. Why? Cause living on the street sucks.

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