Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pay it forward lesson #1/good deed #1

Well, its 5:00pm and this is what I've accomplished in my new adventure, helping others since I saw the movie Pay It Forward for the first time last night:  

I babysat until 1pm thinking about what I would do after the baby got picked up.

I decided that first I would drive to the homeless guy that regularly stands, dirty and sad looking, at the traffic light outside my local WalMart.  Its the same young guy day after day.  Every time I go to WalMart to buy some groceries, I give him a dollar or two, no matter how broke I am. He holds a sign saying, "HOMELESS, PLEASE HELP, GOD BLESS YOU".
I always have felt good helping him,  knowing what he must be going through, however small my donation.  I decided to do more this time.  I decided I would pack a few bags of things I would want if I was homeless in Chicago in October.

So I packed a big leather/insulated bag with 2 of everything, socks, underwear, shirts, sweatshirts and jeans.  I thought he could probably use some toiletries as well but didn't think I had much of my own to give.

I was surprised when I found so many things I though he could use that I didn't even realize I had.  Small bars of soap from hotels, a brand new toothbrush, razor, a first aid kit, toilet paper, body wash, matches, deodorant, etc.  I felt like there might be a bigger force at work here.  Where did all this stuff come from?  I didn't remember having most of it.  

Then I put another bag inside the leather bag that had a new container of peanut butter, jelly and a 1/2 loaf of bread.  Then I put a sleeping bag in a big plastic bag and took that with me as well.  

When my husband saw me about to leave, he was upset.  He told me I was making a big mistake.  He said the guy is a scam artist and probably had more than us.  I ignored him.  I didn't even know I had this stuff, what harm would it do to try and help someone out?  Here I was on good deed #1 and he was trying to block me already.  He told me our car was on empty, he didn't want me to use the last of the gas.  I told him there was enough to get me to WalMart and back (2 miles each way).  
So I left the house with my big leather bag and the bag with the sleeping bag in it before he could flat out put his foot down and tell me no.  I was so close to helping this poor kid, or so I thought.

So I drove to the street outside of WalMart where he stands EVERYDAY.  When he sees me he usually waves, knowing I'll give him whatever I can every time.  He's the only homeless guy that is ever there, I've never seen anyone else.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled up and there was a new homeless man there, much older, much skinnier.  I was feeling disappointed that "my" homeless guy wasn't in his usual spot and would miss out on this great gift I was trying to bestow.  I made a u-turn so that I would be able to pull over to get out and talk to the older guy.

Just then, I see the young guy riding past on a bike, he was much cleaner than usual, even clean shaven.  I waved him over.  He looked happy to see me, recognizing me.  When he got to the car I said, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money this time, but I have this bag with clothes and.....".  That's when he cut me off and said, "I have plenty of clothes lady, I don't need any of that kind of stuff".  So I continued, thinking maybe he doesn't realize there's more.  I said, "Well there's also a bag with toiletries and a sleeping bag.....", he laughed, interrupted me again and said he doesn't need any of that stuff, just money.  He said "maybe that old guy at the corner can use it, he's homeless".  I told him, "sorry, I'm broke this week and I thought you were homeless." and he just rode away on his shiny new bike. 

I was crushed.  
My husband was right.  
This guy was a fake!!!  

I had been trying to help him for months, giving my last dollar to him more than once, he had never been in clean clothes, clean shaven, or had a bike.  I felt like a fool.  I don't think he's homeless at all now.  He laughed at my gift bags and wanted no part of them.  

I was hoping the older guy wouldn't react the same way, I would be the laughing stock at my house if I returned with my gifts, unwanted.

I waved the older man over, he looked very excited and jogged over to me and my car.  I figured he probably thinks I have money and his smile will fade like the young guy when he realizes all I have is care packages.  I said to him, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money but I have a bag with some clothes, some toiletries and some food, if you want them", expecting him to brush me off like my regular guy.  He said, "Oh thank you!!!  That is so kind of you, you don't know what this means to me!"  I was shocked and excited again.  I said, "Well I also have a sleeping bag in this bag if you want it".  He said, "A SLEEPING BAG?!!! REALLY?   I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH!!! ITS GETTING MIGHTY COLD OUT HERE.  GOD BLESS YOU!!!"  I told him I know how he feels and I just want 1 thing from him, for him to pass a kindness to 3 others.  He promised me he would.

My faith in humanity had been restored. 

AND ISN'T IT FUNNY?  I didn't know I had all of that stuff to give.  I found it here and there, from vacations past, on shelves I normally don't look on in the closets.  Then I realized, IT WAS ALL OF MY MOTHERS STUFF!!!  After she died, I inherited the contents of her home.  These were HER things from HER vacations past, that's why I didn't realize I had them.  She always wanted to help the homeless.  My brother, sister & I were upset when our mom announced, a few years ago, after our father died, that she wanted to invite a homeless person to come live with her.  She knew how scared we were for her and so she never did it.  Now here it is, a year and a half after she's passed away and I guess she got to help a homeless guy after all.  I THINK MY MOM IS THE COSMIC FORCE AT WORK HERE.

And in all the months I've been going to WalMart, this guy was never there before.  I had never seen him before.  That young guy has been the "WalMart Homeless Guy" to me and my friends/family for months now.  But here was this brand new older homeless guy, for the first time, when I needed him to restore my faith that this good deed was not worthless, and he needed me and my gift.  
Maybe God didn't want me to get discouraged on my first good deed attempt.  At least I won't waste my money on the fake homeless young guy any more.  At least someone was truly grateful for my gift.  At least I got to feel that I helped someone, that my good deed wasn't prepared for nothing.  At least my mom got to help a homeless man, just like she wanted to, more than a year after she passed away.

When I was leaving the parking lot,  my niece called me and said she needed a ride home from work.  If I had been at home I would have said no.  But now, I was all the way at WalMart, just a few blocks from where she worked.  So I said yes.  And to my surprise, when she got out of the car at her house she gave me money for gas.  So its like my gas for bringing the homeless man that stuff was paid for!  I was in a better place all around, in my heart and in my car, than I had been in when I left.

I received more than I gave today.  Lesson 1 complete.  I've got to start dinner now, so I think I'm done for the day, but who knows?  When you spend your time, hoping to run into someone in need so you can somehow help out, something good is bound to happen, to you, to them and maybe even to the world.