Today, like most days when you are a full-time working mother of 3, was busy. Tonight was an annual Christmas gathering that I have been participating in since before Jay and I got married, but weeks ago when the discussion started about where to have it and what time, I respectfully bowed out this year. For one, it's a busy time. And two, it involves a gift exchange. Money is tight being that I was on a 10 week maternity leave this year and added a third child to my crew. I just felt it best to sit out this year.
After this weeks events and the degree of stress, my husband urged me to go. I was reminded by the other ladies that go that it was not about gifts, so regardless of if I brought something, I was welcome and wanted. I still didn't feel up to it.
Later this afternoon, my husband reminded me how infrequently we get chances nowadays to go places without at least ONE child. I decided to just go. I rushed out to buy gifts (I just couldn't go empty handed, and shopping is one of my very favorite things to do anyways...) and headed on my way. Go figure, my low fuel light turned on. Typical Laura. I hate stopping to get gas. I REALLY hate it when it's cold and I have somewhere to be. Thankfully, there was a gas station right on the way so I wouldn't have to deviate from my route at all. This was better than nothing.
As I pull in to the empty station, I glance down at the fuel gauge to be reminded what side the gas thing-a-ma-jig was on. What I did not notice was the man rummaging through the garbage can for cans RIGHT next to the pump I planned to use. Crap. I was alone and no other cars were around. Awkward! But I had places to be, so I figured I'd just get gas and get out of there.
As I stepped out, the man looked up at me and said, "Ma'am? Do you have any money you can spare? I need bus fare." I gave him the line he likely hears often: "I don't have any cash on me. So sorry!" ...such a lie. Sure, I didn't have wads of bills in my purse. But I had cash. And a credit card. When I fed him my fib, he smiled, said, "Okay, no problem!" and went back to rummaging. I went back to pumping gas. Roughly $50 worth. Inside my warm car, I had gifts aplenty. Gifts for the party I was headed to and gifts for my children. MORE gifts, I should say, as I had plenty more stashed at home.
I watched the man. He was disheveled. He had a warm coat on, but had wounds to his face. Nothing severe, but indications that something had happened to him. As my car filled with gas, my mind kept wandering to the $10 I KNEW I had in my purse. Give it to him, Laura. No! He was probably some alcoholic or drug addict. He'd take my hard earned cash and blow it on his addiction. It's $10. You can easily go to the ATM and get out more, if you need it. And you DON'T need it right now. Why would I feed this mans addiction? Look at him: rummaging through the garbage. Get a job. I have one. I work HARD for my money. Ten dollars or $100, I make my money. Go make your own! GIVE. IT. TO. HIM. LAURA. I think back to just today: I woke up in my own home. Took a hot shower. Got dressed. Went to two holiday parties already and was already overly full on delicious food. I spent well over $100 on gifts. Things my children don't even NEED, but they WANT. Picked up a snack for myself somewhere in there. Here I was, putting gasoline, a full tank, mind you, into my reliable vehicle to go to yet another party with delicious food and presents that I don't NEED, but I enjoy. After the party, I would head back home to my home and go to bed.
"Sir? This is all I have on me, but I want you to have it." He looked up, with a measly two cans he had found in amongst all the garbage cans at that particular station. "Oh, ma'am! Thank you, thank you so much!" I smiled at him, wished him a happy holidays, and drove away.
I don't know where my $10 went tonight. Maybe it went to drugs. Maybe it bought some alcohol. Maybe it DID buy bus fare or maybe it went towards a gallon of milk and bread. But really...does it matter? I am not rich. I am FAR from rich. Money is a daily stress in my life and yes, my husband and I do work very hard for what we have, and what we have isn't anything fancy by any means. But the point is... we have. We have a home. We have cars. We have food in our bellies and while you can never be 100% certain, the chances that we will always have these essentials are pretty darn good. I have never rummaged through a garbage can looking for cans to turn in, nor have I asked a complete stranger for money. It doesn't matter what that man did with my money. What matters is that he knows for ONE second, a moment of gratitude to receive it when he was initially turned away. For ONE second he knew a little bit of happiness to receive what he was looking for. For ONE second, he got a smile and well wishes from a stranger rather than some form of "go away".
I wanted my $10. I did. I'm selfish and I like money and I like to spend money. But I am SO THANKFUL that I listened to that voice inside that said give it to him, Laura. I have so much to be thankful for. So many blessings in my life. I pray, whoever he is, that by giving him a measly $10, he felt a little bit blessed as well.