Helping others. For fun.
What makes me smile looking back on my day? It’s not the $5 I spent on a that new thing, or the $5 I saved with that special coupon; it’s the $5 that I gave to Tom the bottle guy. (Here in Maine we have a bottle law so people collect empties for money). When I ran into Tom on the street I didn’t have any empties to give him, or time to go get some from my office, and then it occurred to me: “I could just give him $5.” What a fun idea!
“But he didn’t earn it,” says a voice in my head. There’s another voice that says, “If you give people money they will just use it for drugs or alcohol.” And another voice says, “You’re creating dependency. Tom should get a job.” I used to listen to these voices. Today I don’t. Today I listen to the voice that says, “If a fellow human is in dire straits, help them if you can.”
My decision whether or not to hand someone a $5 bill doesn’t need to be a whole big statement about my political principles. In that moment I don’t need to be all thoughtful or righteous or care what people think. What’s gonna make me feel good? I make it a heart thing not a head thing.
And today, I don’t give with strings. I used to say, “Now you’re gonna spend this on food, right?” Or, “I won’t give you money but I’ll buy you a meal.” And I would feel so righteous about applying my big morality in this little situation. Today I honor the dignity of the asker. I don’t impose my views about how they should spend their money. I try to treat them as an equal, walking along with me, a lateral transfer.