Conviction

18 Jan

I don’t give homeless people money. I just don’t. I’ve had enough personal experience with wavering in the face of choosing a necessity versus the easy way out to know better than to just hand out money.

However, while I won’t give out money, I will give out breakfast, or a granola bar, or a scarf, or whatever it happens to be that the homeless person is actually needing at that moment. It’s much more practical and much more effective than just handing out a dollar bill.

Now for a segue. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings I walk dogs for my friends the Stangels. Because I’m an insomniac and have a bit of a phobia of being late, I occasionally find myself arriving near the Stangels’ neighborhood with a half hour to an hour to spare. So, I’ve created this nice ritual of heading to the Starbucks up the street and hanging out there with a cup of coffee and a spot of writing.

This morning was one of those Starbucks mornings. I became so absorbed in the snippet of story I was writing that when I finally came to, I realized I only had a few minutes to get to the Stangels’ house. However, on my way out of Starbucks, I was accosted by a homeless woman whom I had once bought breakfast for. She asked if I had some change to spare for a cup of coffee. My brain whirred into a quick mental calculation, figuring that I didn’t have enough to both buy the woman breakfast and make it to the Stangels’ on time. Besides, I’m a poor college student. It’s not like I have  that much to spare.

So, guiltily, I said no. No, I didn’t sorry. Sorry.

Really? Really? As soon as I turned to head towards my car, the mental recriminations started. Did I really have nothing to spare? Was I really so destitute that I couldn’t help this woman out? Was I really that busy that I couldn’t spare a few minutes to help? Would the Stangels really care if I were five minutes late to dog-walking? A modern-day “good Samaritan study” I’d read about in which results showed that those who were time-pressed were less likely to stop to help someone flashed through my mind. Then the image of Jesus standing there (hey, I’m Christian) asking for a cup of coffee flashed through my mind next, with me answering “no.”

No, sorry, I’m too busy. No, sorry, I don’t feel like being that generous today…

Yup. That did it. I was thoroughly convicted. I’d reached my car, opened the car door, and set my own cup of coffee in the consul holder. But then, instead of loading myself into the car, I shut the door, turned back around, and fished in my purse for my wallet.

“Actually,” I said, approaching the woman, “actually I do have change to spare. Would you like breakfast?”

The woman, whose name I later found out was Rosalie, smiled.

Turkey sandwich and small cup of coffee it was.

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