Friday, January 10, 2014

the large impact of the small surprise

Edward: It's just that...very few people surprise me.
Vivian: Yeah, well, you're lucky. Most of 'em shock the hell outta me.

~ from pretty woman


this is no big deal, and i'm not sure why it's stuck with me the past several days.

the first week of december, seattle had a streak of cold weather. highs in the upper teens, lows in the low double digits. for the local homeless, it was a tougher time than usual to be living on the street.

on the way to dropping the boy off at his bus stop, we routinely pass one of these folks, "homeless, anything helps" sign in his hands.

coincidently, in the trunk of my car i had a couple of old sweaters that i intended to drop off at goodwill or one of the clothing donation boxes you see in shopping center parking lots. instead, stopped at the light, i hustled to my trunk, grabbed one of the sweaters, and handed it over to a cold and grateful man. 

i jumped back into the car, the light changed, we drove on.

that's it. end of story. i didn't give it any more thought than that.

until earlier this week. same stop light, same guy. i rolled down my window to hand him five bucks.

him: thanks. much appreciated.
me: you bet...

i was prepared for that to be it, but there was more.

him: i still have that sweater you gave me. thanks.
me: ...
him: ...
me: you're welcome...i hope it helps. stay warm as possible.
him: doing the best i can.

he lifted a tattered-gloved hand and gave a small wave. i waved, the light changed, and i drove on.


what i was, was shocked. i'm pretty sure i believed, without really thinking about it, that exhausted, desperate people barely hanging on to survival have no excess capacity to recall who gave them what, and when.

maybe exactly the reverse is true: maybe we drive by so many homeless people every day that we stop seeing them as people and just refer to them as visual landmarks. any reminder that these are fellow human beings is an actual jolt.


this is a tired epiphany. i read it over and think, "congratulations on articulating the painfully obvious. what are you, 12 years old? idiot."

it's fucking embarrassing.

and if i really think these are "exhausted, desperate people barely hanging on to survival," then i should be doing more. if he were a dog sitting there shivering on the corner, i'd get out and try to help...why on earth do we do less for people?

i feel ill.


stopped at the same light this morning, the same guy was sitting with his sign at the corner. i grabbed a clif bar and a banana, put my car in park, and ran up to him.

me: good morning. how 'bout a little breakfast?
him: thank you, sir.
me: you're welcome...

reflexively, i almost told him to have a good day. yeah, he's not going to have a good day.

i ran back to my car and jumped in just as the light changed.

he gave the same small wave as i passed by. i waved, and drove on.


up above i said, "this is no big deal..."


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I read this blog post and saw this on facebook within the same hour. Someone's trying to tell me something.