Nearly a decade ago, outside the Chalmette Winn-Dixie, I was approached by a woman asking for spare change. I didn’t have any coins, but I had a dollar, so I gave it to her, and she thanked me profusely. Feeling good about myself, I went into the grocery to continue my errands. A few minutes later, I found myself in line behind the woman, who was purchasing a VERY LARGE beer. At that moment, I felt like a character in one of those old Warner Brothers cartoons, who has just fallen victim to a silly prank, and a donkey’s head appears in place of the character’s original head. Since then, I vowed never again to give money to people on the street—until last week.
One of my goals for 2014 is to be more self-reflective and spiritual, and lately I’ve been trying to recognize when I’m being overly judgmental of others. While on my way to work last week, I was stopped at the I-10 underpass at City Park Avenue and Metairie Road, where a filthy, disheveled man sat at the side of the road holding a cardboard sign reading “disabled veteran, anything helps, God bless”—a markedly typical scene for most motorists. Yet, after almost 10 years of hard-heartedness, I was moved to fish $5 from my handbag and present it to this weary, barely mobile soul. He meandered to my window, muttering a weak but sincere “thank you” as the light turned green and I continued on toward Delgado.
Do I realize that he might spend the money on any assortment of adult beverages or perhaps another illicit substance, in lieu of a hot meal? Yes. Am I a saint for giving him money? Certainly not. Five dollars won’t even begin to solve this man’s problems. I have no idea how he ended up on the streets, but I realized that it is not my right to judge him for that. And I am not suggesting that we all take to the streets and rain down dollar bills upon the crowd. However, it is beneficial to our souls and to the souls of others to step back, let go of past hurts and frustrations, and perform a random act of kindness. This is easier said than done, but I’m working on it!
I don’t know who was helped more that day—myself or the man—but I know that my epiphany was a small step toward improving myself, and hopefully making New Orleans a better place.