Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 296: Handing Out Blessings

Almost everyday, I encounter a man on my way home from work, who stands under the I-20 overpass. He salutes, smiles, and waves at passengers waiting to turn left to get on the on-ramp and accepts donations from generous drivers.

His presence is of little concern to me, but on the days when I leave work tired, frustrated, daydreaming about all of the other things I could've been doing if I didn't have to work for 8+ hours every day, I have been guilty, on more than one occasion, of resenting him. I may smile or give a half-wave, but I've never contributed to his cause.

I do not know anything about him, where he lives, or how he came to settle on this spot underneath the overpass, or why he, presumably, doesn't have a job and therefore makes his living this way. But I have judged him, assuming the answers to all of these questions, and have often thought about how unfair it is that I worked all day while this guy accepts handouts.

Yet, on this particular day, Day 296, I was feeling particularly blessed and decided to put my preconceptions aside and share my good fortune with this complete stranger as the thing I'd never done before.

Unfortunately for me, and for him, my desire to be generous only went so far, as I reached into my oversized purse and came up with just a single dollar at the bottom. I paused for a minute, not wanting to insult the guy. But it was all I had, so I rolled down my window and gave the stranger a smile.

"Hi there, my friend," I said, cheerfully.

He smiled smiled back, as he walked over and took my dollar. Then he tipped his hat to me, and said, "Thank you, ma'am," all while clutching a sign that said, "Hand out a blessing today."

I'm not sure that my single dollar could necessary be considered a "blessing," but when he looked at me with a sense of gratitude, I knew that small amount of money so carelessly tossed into the bottom of my purse meant much more to him than it did to me. I was happy to let the dollar go and even happier to let go all of my negative opinions of this person that I never met.

A daughter of an entrepreneur and a firm believer that everyone should work for a living, I try to live my life under the terms of, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." But I also believe that, "A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world." And I think we could all benefit from a little more kindness.

I think God agrees, because after handing over the dollar, I was rewarded for my good deed when I saw a toddler running down one of the streets in my neighborhood completely naked into a sprinkler with her friends.

It was hilarious. It was happiness.