yay. I'm catching up.
Today I gave $20 to a couple holding a sign on a freeway off ramp. I never do this.
When people approach me for money at gas stations or on the street, I generally will hand over whatever I happen to have in my pocket (as it tends to be a few coins or a dollar). I know a lot of people take issue with this, citing the lack of control they have over how their donation will be spent. To my way of thinking this is a bit contradictory. Either you are charitable or you are not, in a given situation. Generosity with conditions isn't generosity. It's disingenuous. It's tit for tat.
I don't make a habit of giving food or money to people standing on off ramps, not because of a policy but something more vague. Perhaps it's my maternal sense that this is not a safe thing for anyone involved.
Today, however, I was compelled to give this couple money. They weren't particularly aggressive in their approach, but, I felt so compelled that I made two U turns in order to get to them. Then I began to wonder why. Why them? Why today? Why so sure, so determined?
Was it because I saw a little of myself in them? They looked down and out but not disheveled. They needed a shower and some rest maybe, but otherwise they seemed fairly together. They were asking for money for food and gas. I imagined that maybe they were traveling and got stuck in town. I can see that happening. One bad string of luck leads to another. Some minor errors in judgement have big consequences.
I thought about growing up in rent controlled housing for most of my childhood. We never went hungry but my mom worked two jobs for 10 years to make sure we didn't. Our neighborhood was a little seedy, threatening violence but rarely ever following through. It was tense but only occasionally scary. Was it this part of my story that made me think "..there but by the grace go I" ?
They had a dog too. He looked well cared for. Did I assume they must be good people if they can care for a dog, and therefore were worthy?
Was it the time of year, when the hearts of all mankind go tender and mild? Was it because I was early for lunch with my husband and I had time to kill? Was it just quirk of mood or inclination? Did I see or hear something that subliminally planted the suggestion that I do something unusual today? My powers of reason were wearing thin.
And then it struck me, like a spasm in my back... Was it because they were white?