Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spare Change

Like thousands of others, I had grown indifferent to them. 
Not to the mother, the father, the child, the sister, the brother, the young, the old, the mentally unstable, the sick, the alone.  But, them, the collective totality of the nation’s homeless.
His was one of the first images I saw when I pulled up to the 7-11 this afternoon.  I took in the parking space, the car to my left, the car to my right, and the man about to ask me for ‘spare change,’ in that order.
I am a single mother of three, I cannot recall ever having spare change. When I can, I give to people who ask.  Though, my definition of when I can likely differs from yours.  When I can doesn’t mean I have extra money—we have acknowledged I never have extra money.  But, it’s when my heart breaks over the possibility of this person’s reality: the cold sidewalk, the hungry children, the incomprehension of it all.
I stepped out of my car and without fully looking at him, I knew him.
I knew he was homeless, I knew he was about to ask me for ‘spare change,’ or something equally as subjective.
I was mid conversation about why I was on my way to see a career counselor: “I just can’t seem to find a job,” I whined into my cell after thanking the gentlemen for holding the door for me. 
That I can’t find a job is not true.  I have a job.  My friend translates my statement to mean I can’t find a job I like that pays me enough to raise 3 children, has flexible hours, excellent health benefits and allows me to write or engage in some sort of public speaking. 
I briefly note that the man holding the door does not ask for money.
Customers usher in and out, the man seemingly tirelessly opens the door for everyone.
“My man…” he calls to someone walking out.  I assume I know what he is asking him.
When I am finished at the ATM, I expect him to ask me for money. Mentally I check to see if I have any 1’s.
“Miss Lady,” he calls.
I sigh. 
I tend to find the question, the wording really—the assumption that I do not have mouths relying solely on my income, responsibilities, trinkets that go unbought for the sake of buying a child a new pair of shoes or a treat—offensive. But, I do give.  I give money, I give food, I give groceries because often I am touched by the randomness of life and circumstance.  
They only want money for alcohol, I hear the old stereotype.
How am I to know? Who am I to judge?
And so, I give when I can.“Miss Lady,” he repeats.
I stop and for the first time I see him. 
“I found my job in the phone book,” his finger scans an imaginary page. “I just called every listing and asked if they had a job.”
He smiled.
If it worked for him, it would work for me.  Don’t give up, make things happen. 
I thanked him and meant it. 
I will spare the time to see the people around me.  I will remember to be forever thankful and open to opportunities to change.   

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