-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX
For over a year now, I’ve often seen a gentleman with the lower right half of his leg missing asking for money, sitting on a triangular-shaped esplanade on a side street just off the freeway. I’ve waved to him and said hello, but never have gift cards on me to give him. I decided after I became a Kindness Investor, he would be one of my investments, but I haven’t seen him all week.
Today I got in the car – Jack in the passenger seat – and went to find him. I had little hope, since it’s raining outside, but I had to give it another shot.
I have mixed feelings about giving handouts to people on the street. They’re obviously in need of help on several levels, and I’m more than willing to help them out with food. In memory of my father, I give street people gift cards to nearby restaurants, so I know they’re getting one or two good meals and the money isn’t going to alcohol or drugs (if they don’t sell the cards). But do our donations really help them? Do the gift cards and loose change keep them on the street, hoping for more, instead of seeking permanent shelter and medical assistance? I don’t want to be an enabler on any level. Anyway…
As I turned off the feeder, the triangular esplanade was, once again, empty. I felt relieved that the gentleman wasn’t sitting out there in the rain. I parked in Starbuck’s parking lot to see if he was seeking shade somewhere in the little shopping strip, when I spotted three men huddled close together under an overhang in front of one of the shops. My guy wasn’t among them, but I felt drawn to them nonetheless.
“What do you think, Jack, will one of these guys be my next investment?” Jack looked at me, licked his lips and gave me a big, happy, toothy grin, so I took that as a sign to “man up” and go meet them. Please note that I never would have approached strangers in such a situation otherwise, but Jack is an excellent guard dog and his size generally keeps people at a distance anyway.
I drove up to where the three were standing, rolled down my window and asked if one of them was interested in helping me with a kindness project for $10. They looked at each other and laughed, two of them pointing to one, pushing him towards the car. They were speaking too quickly in Spanish for me to follow, but were apparently encouraging the third to talk to me.
The elected member walked towards me, looking around; more wary of me than I was of them. “Yes, ma’am? You have a project?” he asked with a strong Spanish accent.
“Do you speak English?” I asked. “Yes, ma’am. Very good English,” he replied.
In a combination of Spanish and English, I told him about the Year of Giving project, my unemployment and my week as a Kindness Investor. “Do you want this $10 bill as my kindness investment for today?”
He looked a little skeptical, turned to see where his companions were, then back to me. “And what you want for this?”
“Tell me about yourself – whatever you want, where you’re from, about your family, the kind of work you do, what brought you here today. How will you spend the $10 – will you save it, give it to someone, buy something?” And, finally, “Do you have a wish you want someone to help you with? Esta bien?”
“Si, si,” he nodded his head in agreement as I handed him my card with the $10 bill tied to it. He briefly scanned the card and put it in his pocket. I asked if he’d like to go to Starbuck’s to sit down and he said no, that he didn’t want to miss “the truck.”
He said his name is Edmund; “Mundo”, for short, and he is 20 years old. He was at the strip center with his brother and cousin waiting for a truck to pick them up for a job. I asked if he had other family here and he said his parents, brothers and sisters are in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. “No wife, no children?” I asked. “No,” he laughed. “Too young.” There is a girl in Mexico he likes, “but she doesn’t know it yet,” he added. “Maybe one day I will take her on a date.” In the meantime, he spends most of his days finding work with his brother and cousin, watching TV and practicing his English. He goes to church if he’s not working, calls home often and misses his family very much.
Mundo said he will probably send then $10 to his family in Mexico. He doesn’t have a computer, but knows someone who will help him look up the Year of Giving website, so he can see his story. His greatest wish is to make enough money to take care of his family, and for prayers to keep the jobs coming.
About that time, someone in a white truck pulled up and honked the horn. “Must go now. Thank you for your kindness loan,” he said smiling, as he waved his compadres over and sprinted towards the truck.
I didn’t ask if the three of them are in the US illegally, but I suspect they are. Mundo did not want me to take his picture, so I just took one of the shopping center where they had been standing. He told me he doesn’t have contact information and didn’t want to give me his address, but offered that he lives in an apartment in the area, “with others from Mexico.”
Mundo, if you get a chance to see this, I am praying for you and your family. I am very proud of you for learning English, which you speak and understand muy bien. And I hope you decide to use the $10 for a date with the beautiful senorita back home, soon. If you are here illegally, I encourage you to return home and go through the immigration process to live and work in the US legally, just as my great-great-grandparents from Germany and Czechoslovakia did two centuries ago, and as my husband’s parents from the Netherlands Antilles did 52 years ago. Secure borders are critical for our nation’s safety and I would hate to see you hurt or worse crossing the border illegally.
Que tengas buena suerte, mi amigo! Good luck, my friend. Be safe.