The Nicest Thing You've Ever Done

I’m not a philanthropist and I’m certainly not a saint.  As a wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend and member of the human race I try as best I can to be nice and kind all the time.  Within the confines of my home my family might have something different to say because they see me at my best AND my worst.

I really had to think hard about what the “nicest” think I’d ever done is.  In a way that makes me feel a bit ashamed, but at the same time it could be a sign that I’m on the right track.  Maybe the reason I have to think sooo hard is that I’m a generally nice person.  Yeah, that’s it.  Let’s go with that.

Of the things I could think of one situation stood out the most to me.  In 2002, my husband, brother and I were in Atlanta for the International Woodworking Fair or IWF.  They as visitors and I as a member of the staff of one of the displaying companies.  During the days we were there we tried to find interesting places to eat and things to do after show hours.  Unfortunately, we noticed that around the area where we were staying there were a large number of homeless people and some unsavory characters skulking around.  For a country girl this was a little unnerving especially when one evening we had a crazed, drunken homeless woman chasing us down the streets, “Screaming get me a beer!!!”  Would it have been nice to get her a beer?  Nah.  I think walking as quickly as we could with our butt cheeks clenched in fear was a far better option.

photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

One evening we found an Indian restaurant {India not Native American ;)} and were excited to try it.  We have a restaurant locally that makes East Indian food and it is our favorite (I’ve tried it as far South and East as Queenstown, NZ; our local place is still the best).  The menu was short but the prices were not.  Everything was served family style a fact of which we were not aware until the food came.   Needless to say we were left with a ton of food leftover, a bill for close to $100 (oh, yeah, that expensive for 3 people), and no place to store any leftovers if we chose to take them.  Then I had an idea.  The vision of the homeless we had encountered on our walk to the restaurant popped into my head.  So, I suggested we pack up the food and offer the leftovers to the homeless that were in the park.  My husband was not impressed, he embarrasses easily, but my brother was all for the idea.  I figured since the food was served family style our own spoons and forks had never touched the food left over so why not share instead of letting it be thrown out.

As we walked toward the park after dark with leftovers in tow little brother and I started to clench up.  Our apprehension got the best of us but hubby took the reigns.  The reception we received was not exactly what we expected. . . at first.  When we reached the park there were several homeless setting up camp on benches, by trees and on beds of newspaper.  It was heartbreaking; but I chickened out.   I was overwhelmed and couldn’t decide who to approach.  There was an older black man laying down newspapers in a small courtyard obviously making his bed for the night.  My husband took the sack from me and went to talk to the gentleman.  At first he was attentive and polite UNTIL my husband actually offered him the food.  It was like the spirit of Spider Man entered his body because he literally leaped back three feet and started screaming, “GET AWAY FROM ME CRACKER!!!” at the top of his lungs over and over.   My husband just stepped back in utter surprise and looked back at us with a look of panic.

From the left a man walked up and invited my husband away from the tantrum happening in the courtyard to talk to he and his wife who were sitting on a bench by the sidewalk at the bottom of the hill.  They looked to be in their mid 40’s and generally clean.  What was most striking about them was their appreciative attitude.  My husband explained to them what my cockamamie idea was and they said they’d been watching because they knew this man was “not all there”.  Poor guy.  They reassured us that not all homeless people are like that and we offered them the food.  I explained neither our forks or lips had touched the food so it was clean; it wouldn’t be like they were eating after us.  No sooner did I have the words out of my mouth that both had a takeout container open and were shoveling chicken tikka masala and rice hungrily into their mouths with their fingers.  It made me feel sad for their situation, but at the same time that they didn’t go to sleep hungry because of us.  Who knows, maybe they would at last  be able to sleep because there were no pangs of hunger needling them to stay awake.

Sad thing is that not all hungry people are homeless.  There are tens of thousands of American men, women and children who have shelter but don’t have enough food to fill their bellies every day.   They suffer in silence.  It’s frustrating to know that even in this country families have to choose between staying sheltered from the elements or feeding their families.  Forget about healthcare.  Though there are those who take advantage of the generosity of others by posing as homeless and panhandling because they can make more begging than doing actual work.  Not everyone is like that.   Get to know the people in your community.  Find out where the soup kitchens, food banks and clothing distribution for the poor are and share your extra when you have it.  When we struggle to “make ends meet” it’s nothing compared to choosing between feeding your baby or getting thrown out on the street.

Thanks for the inspiration Daily Post.

1 comment for “The Nicest Thing You've Ever Done

  1. February 13, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I was a surrogate. I think that’s the nicest thing I’ve ever done.

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