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Archive for December 23rd, 2009

Well….yesterday something happened that I hadn’t prepared myself for.

I tried unsuccessfully to give the $10 to a woman with a small child leaving the Takoma Park Metro.

Later, I boarded the Metro around 10pm and decided to approach a man sitting by himself to see if he would accept my $10.  Kevin, a 50-year-old African-American father and grandfather, was a bit suspicious when I explained what I was doing.

He pondered over it for a few seconds and then said “sure.”  There was a benevolence about him that I initially detected but which later was further revealed.   He explained how he tries to incorporate “giving” into his daily life.  He thanked his mother for instilling those values in him.  He mentioned that he had just given some food to someone this week who was asking for help.

Kevin told me that he was going to give the money to someone else.  I explained that that was exactly one of the intended consequences of my work; to inspire others to give.

He and I talked about why people give or don’t give.  We both agreed that when it comes to giving to a panhandler for example, that it is often less based on a conscious decision and more based on a feeling that you have at that moment.  Maybe it’s how they approach you or something they say that triggers you to give.  Of course there is the exception of those who always give or never give.

The train pulled into the station and Kevin stood up and expressed his thanks and offered me his hand.  I shook his hand only to find he had palmed the $10 and given it back to me.  He quickly went to the door and said, “I told you I was going to give it to someone who deserved it…I just did!”

Well…Kevin, I was not expecting this.  I was kind of shocked.  I didn’t know how to react.  Before I could really move, he was gone.  A woman who was in the car, Josephine, had been watching what was going on and came and sat down next to me.  Unaware of how much she had overheard or seen, I explained what I was doing.  She was very nice and I would have really liked to have spoken with her more, however, I myself had to get off at the next stop.  During our brief encounter she did tell me about an article about an altruistic gentlemen from Montana named Ben Kennedy that was in yesterday’s New York Post.  It’s worth a read.  I wish I could have encountered him and learned how he would have used my $10.

Anyway, back to the story.  So there I was on the escalator out of the Metro.  I still had my $10 and I was left with the question of whether I should keep it or not.  I say that people can do anything they want to with the money.  His choice was to give it to me.  I still felt like I should give it to somebody else. What do you think I should do in these situations?

I could have given it to Josephine.  But now she was gone too.  I headed on foot through the slushy streets a few blocks east.  I was headed to the apartment of my friends Chris and Karrin who had traveled to Omaha to spend Christmas with Karrin’s family.  I was going to pick up their dog Ruben for the night and take him to Little Rascals dog kennel the following day.  Ruben was a lot of fun…such a well-behaved dog, made me want to get one.

Just as I arrived at their apartment, I found a potential recipient.  Betsy was from DC, well Iowa originally, but has been here for “a really long time.”  A white woman about 30, Betsy works at a well-known coffee establishment.  She has an MBA and worked the corporate world for a while but has chosen to take a break from all of that.  She was rather fascinating.  She said she stopped for me because she thought I was a lost tourist.

I asked her what some good coffee joints were in the area, and she quickly brewed up some answers.  In addition to her own establishment, she highly recommended Buzz in Alexandria, Swing’s by the World Bank, and Baked and Wired in Georgetown.  Acording to Betsy, Buzz has phenomenal baked goods as well.

Betsy accepted my $10 and said she was going to go to the mini mart and buy a couple of Totino’s frozen pizzas.  She confessed that she probably eats pizza at least 2-3 times a week.

I gave Betsy the web address and told her to check it out.  We exchanged holiday pleasantries and went on our ways.  Off to pick up Ruben!

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