Change of Heart(?)

So I walked on by again, briskly. I had no intentions of stopping or sparing a second glance for the man holding up his cardboard sign where he had painstakingly scribbled the words, “HOMELESS. WILL WORK FOR FOOD!”

Who would ever employ this man? He is willing to work, he says, but does he really think he will land any kind of a job? How did he arrive at this juncture? What led to his reduced circumstances? Why did fate have such misery in store for him? And why am I powerless to do anything to help?

All meaningless, rhetorical questions. They played in my head like a broken record. I knew I would never lend him a hand. The stench bothered me. A part of me felt his misery was contagious. I gave him as wide a berth as possible, as I walked by. I knew the least I could do was search for some spare change and drop it in his Styrofoam cup. But I was not even inclined to zip open my purse and find the change that I knew I had. As I walked by, I sensed his sad and angry eyes boring into my retreating back. I was appalled at my indifference, my lack of compassion. I was ashamed of the cold, apathetic person I had become. But nowhere within was a desire to turn over a new leaf. I had sunk as low as I could. I had reached the lowest point of extreme apathy toward a fellow human being. It was almost as if I had renounced the human fraternity and slithered over into the frigid world of poikilothermic organisms. Could I even call myself human anymore?

That was a turning point of sorts. Not one that called for celebrations, nothing to write home about, but one that signaled the onset of a thaw, nevertheless. Perhaps the vernal equinox had something to do with it. This time I turned around and retraced my steps. I found a handful of change at the bottom of my purse, scooped it up and bent down to drop it in his cup.

I am still appalled at my behavior, my coldness, my indifference and ashamed that some change is all I could spare. But maybe there is a tiny glimmer of hope for me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll give him more money. Buy him some clothes the next day, start buying him sandwiches for lunch, adopt him! Maybe then I’ll feel good about myself!

3 Comments

  1. That guilt was nothing but your social conditioning. We must press for a system where State must automatically presume these responsibilities and should come to the aid of such people. The whole concept of taxes and welfare state is this only. So next time perhaps you should write a scathing letter to the welfare department of your local government than a reflective piece on your blog. 🙂

  2. Yes, I know it is my social conditioning. But a letter to the welfare department, in a country like America, would go about as far, or less, as my spare change! I work for a company that picks a day to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless on one Saturday every month. That's about as far as the concept of "welfare" goes here!

  3. But I think making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches one Saturday every month is a start. Social action needs to begin somewhere and while doing a good deed once a month may not be enough I would be satisfied with it all the same. But that's also because I am quite cynical :)))


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