Today I took a day off work and went in to the city to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to obtain an official marriage certificate (the one they give you at the actual wedding is not worth the paper it’s printed on apparently) so that we can apply for a divorce in a couple of weeks (when it will be twelve months since we separated). Feeling kinda down about the whole thing, I trudged through the city in the rain, wanting to tell everybody I passed how life had done me wrong. How I was suffering. How everything just sucks and basically a whole lot of boohooing was going on in my head. I actually DID boo-hoo at work yesterday – just felt really sad and that stuff is getting finalised and DONE. That I’m going to be a divorced forty year old. Waaaah.
Then I spotted a homeless guy, sheltering in a stairwell, his belongings around him. He looked so cold and miserable. I often see him as I drive through the city on my way to work. I feel bad for him but can’t help him usually as I’m in my car – I can’t just bung a load of coins out the window at him as I whizz past. But today I had no excuse. As I walked past him, I tried to ignore the feeling of wanting to help. I told myself I didn’t have any cash on me (I didn’t) and that I had to get to the registry office.
I told myself I was too shy/timid/uncomfortable/busy to approach him.
But then I stopped.
I turned around and I headed to a coffee shop about a block away from the man .I ordered a hot chocolate and headed back .
My conversation with myself had changed from “You can’t do this” to “You have to do this”.
I couldn’t pass him by, not one day longer.
I offered him the hot chocolate, thinking he would be grateful and pleased. He simply said “Oh I don’t drink coffee…” I told him it was hot chocolate (I had purposely not bought coffee as I know some people don’t like it) and said “I just thought you could do with a warm drink – you look so cold…” To which he replied “I am cold”. I wanted him to take the drink. I wanted him to smile and say thank you and “That’s so nice of you!” but there was none of that.
He almost begrudgingly took the drink and I think I heard a mumbled “thanks”, although maybe I just wanted to hear one.
So what am I getting at? For a while I was a little miffed and felt kinda stupid for even bothering to buy the drink. I felt that my kind deed had gone unappreciated.
I was embarrassed and flustered. I’d walked quite a way to get him that hot chocolate.
But then I stopped.
That man sleeps on the street. He has no home, no family, no car, no money. He doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. He has been rejected by society, maybe his family, and can’t rely on friends to give him a bed to sleep in. He has way bigger issues than I do. And I’m the one who’s uncomfortable? Geez, talk about first world problems! I buy him a drink and I think that’s going to solve all his problems? What about tomorrow? Or the next day?
I had to remind myself that his reality is different to mine. I was trying to stamp him with the same social etiquette and manners that I live by. Me in my cosy home with my nice job, my loving family and my loyal friends. Me with a full belly and clean clothes, a roof over my head and a feeling of safety and security in my little world.
Maybe I’m not quite up to the whole Good Samaritan act yet. I wanted to be. I wanted to do this good deed and not expect approval or gratitude in return. But we live in a world where we all want reward for the things we do. We want to be noticed and acknowledged. I, for one, am sorry I gave in to that need today and didn’t allow kindness to be its own reward.
Next time I will do better. Next time I will buy a sandwich – but I will ask first, and not be offended if they don’t want to accept my offer.
At the end of the day, I did a good thing and I guess that is better than standing by or walking past and doing nothing.
A good deed, even a slightly unsuccessful one, has to count for something, I hope so, anyway.
Hope you are all safe and warm today x