Tall Drink of Nerd: The Side of Kindness
A few nights ago, a man in his early 60’s stopped me outside of Michaels Craft store. He wasn’t drunk, didn’t appear to be high. He was clean-cut, in chinos and a button up shirt, and looked very similar to our tax accountant, actually. The man was asking for money. While talking to my husband, Seen, shaking his hand several times and making a point of repeating Seen’s name, he told us his tale. The money was for his rent, he was $75 short and facing eviction. His story-telling technique was disjointed, contained the occasional mathematical equation and included repetition of the phrase, “I moved from Seattle and don’t have my ID” about 20 times. From his speech patterns, and his agitation at any bus that drove by, it was clear that this man was suffering from a mental illness.
Earlier, before we had left the house, I removed all the cash from my wallet, a single $10 bill, and folded it into my back pocket. I don’t like carrying a purse in my touristy beach town. I’d rather keep my money and ID in a pocket and away from would-be thieves. I especially don’t want to be whipping out my wallet in the middle of a street when somebody asks for money. After about 10 minutes of talking with the twitchy accountant in front of Michaels, I said “Look, we live on unemployment, but I’ll give you all I have on me right now.” I handed him the folded 10-spot and extricated myself, and Seen from any further conversation.
Inside the Michaels Craft store, amid t-shirt paint and teddy bear cake molds, Seen, told me that he has seen the beggar inside of the grocery store a few times. The guy is always asking for money or a ride home. Seen usually gives him a “sorry” and walks by. I don’t know how the man used the $10 I gave him, or if he even remembered 15 minutes later that someone had given him money. Giving him that slip of paper seemed like a validation that he had been heard.
I’m leery of giving money to people on the street. I’ve handed out food before and I participate in charity in other ways, but I try not to be a sucker. My antennae are way up when people ask for money and I typically don’t fall for bullshit. There was something sadly desperate about this guy. He got to me. If he was an actor or a scammer, he played the role well. I decided to err on the side of kindness.
After that little situation played out, I pondered erring on the side of kindness and decided it was something I needed to do more of. Being kind doesn’t make me stupid, so I’m not going to buy your land development in Florida. It just means I’ll try to be understanding towards people who act idiotic or oblivious to others in the world. It means letting somebody pull ahead of me in traffic, so they can get off at the next exit. It’s about letting the guy with the diapers go ahead of you in the grocery store line, when you’ve got a full cart. It means letting your husband win the argument when he is so obviously wrong and then not gloating when the Google proves you right later on. It also involves giving people the benefit of the doubt.
There are days when we’re all as surefooted as a mountain goat and every step is intentional, but there are days when stumbling happens and nothing cooks up quite right. On the bad days, I’ll step on toes and jumble words. Being mindful of patience and kindness has helped me see that everybody has both kinds of days. Everyone has lots of things to deal with, good or bad, some may be mundane and some may be overwhelming. Plato said it better than I can “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Sure, I still yell at idiots and have been known to be cranky when jerks at the gym camp out on crowded cardio machines or don’t re-rack their weights. Because those things would be avoidable if the gym neophyte didn’t have their head shoved tightly up their own butt.
But mostly, I try to be kind, to make the battle just a little bit easier.
featured image credit: Brandon Christopher Warren