Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thank you for your honesty, now please step away from the car and buy some Thunderbird

I have no issue giving money to the homeless. I make no demands on what they spend it on, whether it's buying a pint of the ripple or food. It's my choice to give to whom I want to give to, and it is the choice of those who receive to do what they will with it.

Call me a softy, liberal, commie (waiting for comment below from Dad), but one thing I do try to do when I'm giving out a couple bucks to those less fortunate than me is to, at the very least, look them in the eyes and acknowledge their existence. More than that, I usually stop to share a few words with them. I fully accept that what they may have to tell me is bullshit. I willingly accept that.

Once again, it part of the bargain I make with myself in these situations.

The idealistic and compassionate part of me believes that one of the few things you cannot take away from people are their stories. Humans are creatures defined by their stories, whether they are true or a created personal myth. By acknowledging the stories of those who have fallen on hard times, we are acknowledging what we all have in common. We accept that there are tragedies, happy endings, and mostly, ongoing struggles.

The part of me that is slightly more cynical figures that listening to the stories of others will give me more stories.

More than anything, more than giving money, listening is an activity that shows you care about another human being. Looking someone in the eyes and truly paying attention is a great gift, and it is one you can give to anyone at anytime.

But sometimes it can be hard to control when these great, life-affirming gifts for the homeless take place. And Sunday was one of those times.

Sunday after church ...

Okay, I'll let that part sink in for a minute. Yes, I do occasionally go to church, but it is a Unitarian Church, so I've heard the words of Bob Dylan about twice as often as I've heard the words of the Lord.

And we're back. Sunday after church I made a stop at the Dollar Variety store on Main Street in Haverhill. Now, the Dollar Variety is firmly within the middle tier of dollar stores, well below the ritzy heights of the Dollar Tree, the gold dollar standard of the competition, but safely above the likes of Uncle Junior's Discount Dollar Delirium. I needed some ibuprofen, but apparently not so badly that I was willing to pay more than a dollar for it.

It is also a well-known fact that any trip to the Dollar Variety will also include me standing slack-jawed at the big ol' display of off-brand, discontinued, not-quite right candies. This trip so me add some pretzel M&Ms and Swedish Fish jellybeans to my score. It's kinda like where the ugly step-children of Big Candy go to fuel potheads who have lots of time to shop during the middle of the day.

I take my bag of cut-rate painkillers and misfit candy back to my car, wash down some ibuprofen with some surprisingly not untasty, if perhaps slightly stale, pretzel M&Ms.

As I consider how much I want to try the Swedish Fish jellybeans (unsurprisingly, they taste just like Swedish Fish, yet in a convenient bean-like shape), I get a knock on the window of my car.

Before I can completely focus on the white, bearded middle-aged guy who, quite frankly, looked like anyone else who might have been wandering around the Dollar Variety in Haverhill on a Sunday afternoon, said gentleman begins to converse with me. Very loudly.


Well thank God and Robert Zimmerman, I think, because criminals are, by law, required to tell you if they are in fact criminals.


Well, then, maybe there is something to this honesty thing after all. I consider telling him that approaching people who buy off-brand pain relievers with spare change might not be the best bet for finding the riches to purchase Courvoisier and Grey Goose Extra Smug. Instead I pull two quarters out of my ashtray and slide them through a very narrow opening in my window. Judging from the vinyl signs in the front windows of every convenience store in town, I know my new friend is now halfway to purchasing a 24-oz can of ice cold Natty Light. I wish him luck.


but not a criminal.

I decide that this is the exception to the rule about listening meaningful to the stories of the homeless. I gave him a good start on his story with the whole honesty thing.

I go home and am thankful that I have a roof over my head where I can enjoy Swedish Fish Jellybeans.


Blogger Marian Blackwell said...

Way cool, and delightful. Keep writing an sharing...

12:28 PM  
Blogger Adam Swift said...

Thank you, Marian!

12:36 PM  

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