People watching is the best show on earth...

Nov 10, 2008

Giving Thanks

. Nov 10, 2008


Tonight I am deliberately trying to overhear something interesting, which is why after slowly walking the length of a busy shop-lined street, I've eavesdropped absolutely nothing. The very best glimpses of human nature - heroic, despicable and everything in between - usually find me when I'm not looking.

Why is that so, I wonder? Does something else decide what I'm going to hear and when? Well, fine then, I think to myself in a 12-year-old's voice. I'm taking my ears and going home. On my way to the bus stop, I'm wishing I would have just driven my car and fought the parking on this busy street full of diners and shoppers. I'm tired, it's cold and my patience has left the building.

Tonight, I am The Grinch. Shall I just go with it and try to make a child cry? Lost in my grumpy thoughts, I'm startled by a man's voice as I pass a dry cleaner's on the corner.

"A couple bucks for a meal, miss?" he calls to me. "No," I say instantly. "I don't have any extra tonight, sorry". I lie on two accounts: one, I do have extra and two, I'm not sorry. I work hard for my money and the last thing I want to do is give it to a dirty transient who will turn right around and buy a 40 ouncer and a pack of cigs. That is what I yell to the small voice whispering in my heart that perhaps the man is honest.

His eyes are downcast when I deny him. His hands are clasped in front of dirty tan pants stained with lord knows what. He wears several layers of tops, the outermost a gray sweatshirt with hood and pocket. His beard is wildly unkempt and a faded brown UPS cap covers his head.

Twenty steps later I reach my bus bench. I sit sideways and look back to watch the pan handler do his thing. A handful more people turn their heads to him when he speaks, but continue walking. A woman and teenage boy are next. Both hold shopping bags of treasures. The man hesitates, then speaks when they are almost past. The woman turns around. The boy looks at his mother. She says something to the man and he answers, but stays in his spot.

The woman puts her bags down and goes into her purse as more shoppers walk around them. The boy keeps his eyes on the man. His mother passes some money to her son and he walks to the man to give it. From my bus bench I can see the man smile in thanks. Mother and son are on their way and pass me, her arm around him, both smiling to themselves. Suckers.

The man is off and running to the crosswalk. I spring off my bench and walk briskly after him. I am so certain that he is headed for the liquor store on the corner across the street I am giddy with excitement. We reach the other side and he turns right, away from the booze shop. I am 10 steps behind and feeling more curious than boastful.

He walks purposefully for nearly one block and I consider turning back. And then a cold fall wind gusts an unmistakable aroma: french fries. Up ahead, on the corner of the next block, is a Jack in the Box fast food joint. I stop in my tracks. The man walks across the street. Before he enters the restaurant, he stops at the doors, bows his head and crosses himself in prayer.

11 Whispers:

Sheryl Tuttle said...

Thank you for a great post.

Rene' Morris said...

This really made me stop and think. I've been told all my life not to give to them. But what if they are really just wanting some food? Thanks for posting this.

Embee said...

You've been tagged! Check out this blog to find out what that means:

Have fun ... and don't forget to let me know when you've completed your 8!

Musings of a Would-Be Writer

NathanKP said...

Hello Vivienne,

An excellent post. Because your blog always inspires me I have given you an award:

I Love Your Blog!


Vivienne said...

Hi Sheryl, glad you stopped by.

Rene, I hear you. I tend to be more cynical than I'd like to admit when it comes to pan handlers. Seeing what the mother and son did suggests I should just follow my heart and not think beyond the gift. I always enjoy your comments :)

Hello Embee, thanks and I'll head over soon to check it out!

Hi Nathan and thanks a lot. I responded to your post (aka glowing, generous mention) and was happy to post the badge in my sidebar. Cheers!

Kat said...

I am glad the man did the right thing.

Page McManus said...

Love your blog - I've even posted about it on our writer's loop and got some lovely comments about it.

I've tagged you with the bookworm meme - hope it's not the same thing as Embee's. But, I'd love to know what you're reading.


Shelley said...

Hello! First time here and I enjoyed reading your post. I've bookmarked you and will definitely be back again!

Anonymous said...

Your blog almost always brings me to tears. Not in a bad way, but your writing about nearly everyday things makes me think long and hard about my reaction to the world.

This post is something I have struggled with over and over all my life until a few years ago, when I finally realized that I am still called to give, even when I know not what will be done with the money. I realized that I have no control over what the person spends the money on, but I alone have control over whether or not I can find it in my heart to give or help. That IS my responsibility. It's getting so tough finanically for me that I can very rarely give money to people now, but if I have a dollar or two, I give it. If the person takes advantage and buys booze etc, that is for them to live with. I STILL GAVE FROM THE GOODNESS IN MY HEART. Despite the theives, scammers and decietful people in the world, all humans should still try to have compassion for fellow humans. If they rip you off, it will come back to them in the end anyhow. reap / sow.

Vivienne said...

Hi Kat, I am also relieved that he did go buy food. That makes me sound sort of pompous, doesn't it? Who am I to evaluate someone else's life. But it's my honest reaction. I guess maybe I should say I'm happy he got a hot meal, despite my efforts to thwart it.

Hello Page and thank you. I'm glad to do a meme about reading or writing and will be publishing my respons soon. I'll have to narrow down my reading list. It's ridiculously long. I'm scatter-brained like that.

Welcome Shelley! Happy you enjoyed your visit and hope you continue to find my eavesdrops interesting.

Hello Anon, what a priceless comment you've left. I thank you so much for sharing your struggles with this issue. Your thoughts confirm I should just follow my heart, which I already knew but was too scared of being caught the fool. It's also comforting to know that others have the same doubts about giving as I do. Makes me feel like a little less of an ass.

Hope to see you all around here again. Happy Thanksgiving, Vivienne

SamsungLN52A650 said...

I sincerely feel in love with this post... thanks for sharing... lovely presentation and well crafetd words.

I think going by the heart is the best thing that could be done rather than thinking a lot about it.

Thanks for sharing


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