The Money Giver—Part I
I know a man in town who’s habit it is to carry in his wallet, money which he gives to those he meets that are in need. He rarely leaves his home without checking a special pocket in the back of his leather billfold to ensure that there is some assortment of ones, fives, tens and twenties available for those who ask.
When asked how he determines who is worthy of these special dispensations he will reply that anyone who asks him is worthy. It makes no difference their appearance, or circumstance, for who is he to judge another human being? If they are in need and he can help he sees this simply as his obligation, his opportunity, and, he would add, his benefit and blessing. “For what gift can we give that we don’t receive as much in return, to our own benefit, in the way of spiritual rewards: joy, peace, goodwill…”
It had been some time since he had crossed paths with anyone in need on the street corners or parking lot exits where one can typically be found, and he was feeling sorrow because of this, and a great need to find someone to help. So on this particular day he drove north to the Trader Joes parking lot where there is usually a man, or a woman or even a whole family waiting for someone to help them. Today he found a young man, bundled in blankets, sitting on the sidewalk in the rain, rocking back and forth and muttering unknown things to only himself. He was clutching in his hands a pipe and lighter and looking up at the sky. When the man approached him and offered him the money, he barely took notice but just continued rocking back and forth and staring into the distance. He wished the young man a peaceful day and hopes for a warm bed tonight, gave him the money, and returned to his truck.
As he told it to me later, while approaching the young man, he considered how much of his money to give him, and while he doesn’t withhold money from anyone in need, he also doesn’t want his contributions to be used by others to hurt themselves. This young man clearly looked like he could choose to use the money for drugs rather than food. Perhaps he should have bought the boy food instead, as he sometimes does, but in this case he thought it better to give eleven dollars, enough for a warm meal, but not so much that it could be too harmful should the child choose to go that route. He prayed that the young man would make a wise choice with the money he had been given.
I asked him if this was the end of his adventures for the day and he replied that no, in fact there was a second part of his calculation when deciding what to give the young man: how much to hold back to have ready to give to the next person he felt certain he would find that day. The next person would need quite a bit more, he believed, so he kept closer to eighty dollars ready in his wallet after leaving the young man.
“This is very generous,” I exclaimed.
“Don’t get the wrong impression. I am a selfish man,” he replied. “I really am, my wife has reminded me of this many times and it is true. For all the good you seem to think you see me doing here, there are plenty more occasions where I display complete disregard for anyone but myself. In fact, in truth, this is how I live most of my life. But hopefully I will change.”
He continued his story, “the next person I found a bit farther south, standing on the corner near Costco, holding a sign and clutching a crutch under each arm. His legs were badly deformed and he had trouble maneuvering in the rain, as his crutches slipped on the concrete. As I approached him I could see he had a fighting spirit and also a gentle spirit. I was immediately impressed with him, and wanted to know more about him. I introduced myself and suggested he might have better luck up the street on the corner near the Seventy-Six gas station because there was a pull-out there where cars could get out of traffic and more easily give him money. He didn’t know the area well, and hadn’t stood asking for money in quite a while but he had sudden expenses and not enough for rent and he was in danger of losing his home. His roommate was too afraid to stand asking for money because of bad experiences with others yelling at him and throwing things at him in the past. But he didn’t mind these things, one just does what they have to do. I gave him the handful of money and he pocketed it gratefully.”
“What was the matter with his legs, did you ever find out?” I asked.
“Yes. He has cerebral palsy. His eyes are also very crossed and as he explained to me he has troubles with incontinence and therefore has to wear ‘Depends’ all the time. And I must tell you when he confessed this I almost wept. He said it so plainly, without shame and also without any self-consciousness whatsoever. He might as well have been telling me what he had for breakfast. I can’t explain it but the simplicity of that humbled me tremendously and my admiration for him grew. ‘The body does what the body does, you just have to take care of it’ he said to me. I wish I could have conveyed the naturalness of this statement in the way he said it. It was truly tremendous, no artifice, no mannerism that would suggest any of the issues I might have were I the one needing the diapers. I’ve heard it said that humility is just being who we are honestly, naturally. I have rarely, if ever seen a clearer example of genuine humility and it was beautiful. He then commented that in fact he had used his diaper there and needed to find a bathroom soon where he could change it for a new pair and this is why, he explained, that he kept an extra pair of pants with him and additional ‘Depends’ in the bag he carried while he asked for money on the street corner.”
To Be Continued…