Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Milk (and other foodstuffs) of Human Kindness

Last weekend, I did something that made me feel fan-FLIPPIN-tastic! I'll give you a few moments to get all the naughty jokes out of your systems:


Okay, the thing I did that made me feel great was this: I saw a dude panhandling on the sidewalk. When you live in a city like Montreal and you see people panhandling all the time - you start to develop a sense of who really needs help. This guy needed help. He wasn't drunk, he wasn't obnoxious. He just needed a hand up. I chatted with him a little. Okay, I'll admit - I HAD to chat with him because he was sitting right in front of the store I'd just come out of. You know what that's like, right?

I honestly had no cash on me, for which I apologized. Then I offered the obligatory "I'll get you next time". Which, as much as I really did mean it, totally came off sounding like some kind of line. He was super nice about it though, thanked me for stopping and we wished each other a good night.

I went to my car and sat there a few moments, feeling uncomfortable. True, I didn't have cash on me. But I DID have my bank card. Should I find an ATM? No - better yet - there was a grocery store right there. I could buy him something useful. I got back out of my car, walked over to him and asked, "I DO have my bank card. Is it okay, if I pop into the grocery store and get you some things?".

He glowed, leaped to his feet. I helped him collect his things. We went into the store together grabbed a grocery cart and navigated the aisles. I feel ignorant now for having thought this, but I assumed that he'd toss things into the cart like he was on some kind of game show. He didn't. He was apprehensive about selecting things - of somehow offending me for picking something pricey. He even refused when I told him to take more. He economized everything. He was careful. He pointed out prices to me...("Can you believe this is only $3?")

In the end - $45. An amount I wouldn't think twice about on a regular grocery trip. But for him, it meant getting by for maybe another few weeks, without having to literally beg for food. He must have thanked me 20 times. Amazing how good $45 can feel isn't it? Outside the store, he happily slung the grocery bags over his shoulder. I held my hand out to shake his. He hesitated and sheepishly apologized for his hand being dirty. I was struck with a pang of sadness in that moment. Because I so didn't care. I was just genuinely glad to meet him. To have had this experience. To have helped him. But he cared that he was dirty. And it was a vulnerability that really sent things flying back into perspective. What his life was. What my life was. I didn't want this life for him. I didn't want this life for anybody.

But we did - we did shake hands, exchanged names and parted ways. And I think we both felt pretty freakin' great.

And that's what happened to me just last weekend. Now - the only thing I ask from you, that you try to pay it forward. Deal?


Cheryl (a.k.a Sherri, and vice-versa) said...

That's awesome Nat! I will set out to do something good this week.

N@ Lauzon said...

Thanks Sherri - it really is a priceless feeling - helping someone who needs it. I'm glad you will!!!

'dinky' said...

i need my rent paid next month...wanna pay it forward to s. bites? hee hee i can dress up like that homeless guy if it makes it easier to hand out money to me and my awesomeness... :p

Suzanne said...

Proud of you Nat.

Your aunt Suzanne

Shaugn said...


I know that feeling very well as I have helped people in need before. I've never brought anybody grocery shopping necessarily, but just yesterday, as I took my exit to go home, a lady was stranded at the end of exit being honked at and being flipped the bird. So I pulled my car over, got out and started by pushing her car out of the way of the impatient people. Her car had overheated because she ran out of coolant. I just happened to have a bottle in my car and filled her reservoir. She offered to pay me for it, but I refused because I like to think that somebody else would have helped me if I had needed.

I love that feeling of helping somebody who genuinely does need it. The lady was SO thankful wishing she could repay me somehow. I just told her the same thing you said: pay it forward .

What I hope, Nat, is that others can learn from our experiences and stop taking everything and everybody for granted and to take the time and effort to help others around us.

Keep up the great work Nat! =D

3D said...

Just when I thought you could not get any cooler, ya pull a stunt like this! Sheesh...

You seriously rock!

Keep smilin!

Bob said...

Your generosity is heart warming. I had a similar experience a couple years ago, when I gave a panhandler 20 bucks for telling me a joke and helping me fill the windshield washer tank in my car.
Not quite the same, but I did pay it forward on Monday, to a co-worker (and trust me, we CBC types are not starving). She needed change or bus tickets to get home. I have some reserve tickets in my bus pass holder, and gave her enough of them to get home. She wanted to reimburse me, but I wouldn't let her. I'm pretty sure she would do the same for me or anyone else in similar circumstances.

Misster Kitty said...

You knows I think you're the tippy tops!

Meaghan said...

Amazing! What a fuzzy story. Thanks for that.