So, anyone who reads here often knows that I have a small vice for slobbery-sweet Americanized Chinese food, preferably deep-fried, dripping with MSG. Hey, what can I say, it's my only vice. (Right, and I have a bridge in New York State for sale.)
Anyway, when I need to get out of the office and decompress for 30 minutes, I head to the Panda Express, maybe once a month. While I was getting into my car yesterday with by booty (my food, not my arse - although I had that with me as well), I was accosted, as I am in different situations about once a month or so, by a panhandler.
He was a native American Indian, who explained his plight in coming here from North Dakota, and now not having enough money to get back or find anything to eat, for that matter. He asked if I could help him out with some money to help buy him some food. There are people out there who would have taken this person and bought him some lunch and sent him on his way. I am not typically one of those people. I did, however, give him the change I received from paying for my meal.
Now, before you go all postal on me, let me explain: I gave it to him, not FOR him, but FOR myself.
You see, I'm not STUPID (quiet down, people), I know where that money goes. I know it walks two blocks down the street to the 7-11 beer cooler or the liquor store. I know it goes to the dealer, or whatever. That's why I don't hand over a five dollar bill.
Perhaps I am selfish, but I give away my spare change because it helps me remember how fortunate I am. Life is hard, believe me, I know. Been there, done that. It seems sometimes that I (and maybe more of us than we would care to think) am not far from being there more often.
It keeps me grounded and humble, I think of my own kids, hoping that they will be able to do the things they need to in order to get security in their lives. I do it to help me remember how hard I need to work to make sure that my family is cared for. I have responsibilities, many of them, and I am fortunate to be where I am today. I am where I am today because of people who have handed over their spare change to me, figuratively speaking, when it has been needed.
Over the last year or so, I have been in the fortunate position to be able to help out a couple of family members who have needed bailing out. Although the people were different, I did it in response to the bailing out I was in need of in earlier times.
I gave some financial support when it was needed, and when times were better for those people, they approached me about paying me back. My response to them was that they should simply watch for other deserving people in their lives, and when/if the need arises, reserve that "payback" money to actually "pay it forward" to someone who was in need. All I asked of them both was that they send me a note to tell me what they had done to help someone else in their lives, and that they then tell that new person to do the same for someone else in the future.
The movie of the same name was inspiration for this thought. In both cases this concept was met with novel interest, and thankfulness on both parts.
Why do I write this here? I certainly don't seek to put myself on a pedestal or bring any kind of notice to myself. It is simply just to state that the satisfaction my wife and I have received from this has been very nice. Both of us feel fortunate to live the way we do, sure there are stresses, and we aren't independently wealthy by even the most wild stretch of the creative mind, but we are thankful. Thankful for people around us who have helped us, thankful to be able to help, thankful to be able to give examples to kids of what it means to truly have "Christian" values.
We try to show the kids that going to Church does not a Christian make. If I can pass along ANYTHING to my kids, and others around me, it's that concept right there. So, yes, I do give change to people who ask, most of the time. It reminds me. It gives me perspective. "There but for the Grace of God go I."