April 1, 2010

A glimpse into someone else's life

Do you ever have those rare moments when you get an uninvited, raw glimpse into someone's life? I had one of those moments yesterday, and it was pretty powerful.

I had a few hours to kill; A had physical therapy in the morning, and my in-laws were arriving to visit a few hours later. I didn't want to go home after therapy, be there for an hour, and then have to backtrack to the airport to pick up my family. So I took A to the mall, where we had a blast. I'd received a gift card to Tiffany for my birthday, and A had fun helping me pick out a few pairs of earrings. We had lunch, bought some clothes for her at Gap Kids (boy, my little fashionista sure has some opinions about what she wants me to buy for her!) and new lipstick for me. We capped the trip with a stop at Sweet Factory; nothing like candy for the ride home!

By the time I got back to the car, I realized I was running a bit late. My in-laws' plane arrived at 1:30, and it was already 1:05. The airport was not far away from the mall, but there was a lot of traffic exiting the mall, and I was getting anxious. I hate to be late.

At the corner of the mall, right before the turn to the main road, a man stood. The sign he held said "Injered [sic] at work...no workers comp...please help". Of course, I did nothing. These people are all over the place, holding up signs. I have become very jaded over the years, I guess. And no, the irony is not lost on me that this man was panhandling right in front of the poshiest mall in San Diego, with every designer from Michael Kors to Louis Vitton having a retail store inside.

Anyhow, the car right in front of me stopped, and the driver got out and walked over to the man. At this point, I was about to lose it; I had to get to the airport! What was this driver thinking? Get a move on! But soon I saw: he had his doggie bag of leftovers from PF Changs, a high-end Chinese restaurant in the mall, and he handed it to the man.

Color me shocked.

The driver ran back to his car, got in, and drove away. I looked at the man holding the sign (and now the bag of food)...and he was crying. Sobbing. This random act of kindness had touched this man, and his emotions were let loose. I can't imagine what he was feeling: gratitude? embarrassment? joy? shame? Most probably a combination of many emotions. It was a private moment for the two, and by being in the car behind them I unwittingly got to witness the giver's selflessness and the recipient's reaction.

As for me, I made it to the aiport right on time. But I need to examine MY reaction to these people asking for money/food/work. I know many people are out of work (heck, I have MANY friends that have been laid off during this recession, several of them still looking for work). I can't shake the feeling that much of the money people give go to drugs; maybe that's because I worked for years with drug addicts who lived on the streets, panhandling for their fix, so I know first-hand. But I hate being so jaded. And I'm glad I got to witness this random act of kindness. It was worth the stress of *almost* being late.


  1. Parting with cash can be difficult and unfortunately your concern is valid. Where does your few bucks get spent? For food? For shelter? For a fix?? That was a good thing he did. And a good thing for you to see. Moments like that bring us back to reality. We get caught in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget how a small act of kindness can really help our fellow man.

  2. I keep about $20 in cash at all times in the car for the homeless. I also in the winter keep a cheap backpack stocked with warm clothes and such to give to a homeless person that I might see. We really have so much, too much and there are so many in need. I grew up in a place near the Appalachians and there was a billboard that said "You don't need to go to the 3rd world to witness poverty". So many are in need and if we can give, just a little, then we should. It was a good moment for you to see because it made an impact. A few spare dollars in my pocket might get me a latte but they might get someone else food for the day.


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