Don’t Honk

"Hey, you don't know me but I was the guy in the car behind you in that awful 5:30pm rush hour traffic yesterday. I must tell you that I was amazed to see you reach out your driver's side window and give that homeless guy some money. He's been there before but I've never seen anyone, except you, give him anything. I've wanted to help him but I keep procrastinating because I'm always late or I'm not close enough and don't want to make him cross a lane or I don't have anything 'small.' But you just did it. I think that's cool.

I noticed that when your window first went down the poor guy's face had an expression of half hope and half caution. Maybe he expected you to say, 'Get a job.' Homeless people holding signs get that all the time. I've seen people slow their cars and roll down their window just to scowl and yell it as they drive by. To me that seems like a lot of work just to make someone who's hit rock bottom feel even lower -but whatever. I don't know what you said when your window first went down but I saw him grin and nod. Did you ask him a question? Did you ask permission to help him out? I doubt that homeless people are often asked permission for anything. I wish I knew what you said because it made him drop his cardboard sign.

I couldn't tell if the fist you opened up over his hand had only coins in it. I assume that piece of paper that accidentally fell to the ground was a buck, because you waved it off when he tried to hand it back. He must have thought you'd made a mistake. I've never seen a homeless person try to hand money into the window of a Land Rover. I couldn't believe it.

It looked like you were trying to hurry -before the horns from cars following you started to blare. Maybe that's why you dropped some of the money. Anyway, there was no need to rush. You couldn't have known I wasn't going to honk at you. There's a chance your kindness would make me miss the next light and you'd delay me a couple minutes for dinner. But that grip of money you handed the guy might have gotten him some dinner. Or alcohol, but if so, so what? You were kind unconditionally and I think he caught a healthy buzz from that.

By the way, have you ever had people tell you not to give to the homeless because they'll spend it on alcohol or drugs? That is one of my favorite 'giving' cop-outs. I saw from your actions that you don't buy into that theory. Can you believe that some people actually convince themselves they are helping the homeless to stay sober by not giving them money? Do they honestly think that an alcoholic or drug addict won't find a way to follow his or her vice one way or another? Will alcoholism among homeless be globally cured if everyone who has cash hoards it? Ha! Right! I don't pretend that I'm nobly tending to the health of the homeless by ignoring them. Again, my problem is procrastination and, to be honest, a little bit of fear in approaching a stranger. At least I don't pretend to help them by not helping them! While watching you talk with the homeless man I wondered what your opinion is on that. If I had your cell number I would have called to ask.

Oh, and it was the guy behind me that eventually honked. I want you to know it wasn't me. Certainly he was trying to save your homeless friend from alcoholism and drug-dependency by honking so you wouldn't give and we could all rush 200 feet to the next stoplight. Don't worry about that impatient, horn-happy jerk. I took care of him. I'm sure that later he had chicken for dinner because I flipped him a really good bird right through my sunroof. I don't do that often but he deserved it. I'm glad the horn seemed to have no effect on you or the homeless guy you were helping because I was enjoying your show of caring from my front row seat.

I'm sure you could have offered to buy the homeless man dinner or handed him a gift certificate instead. Some people only give those things. It helps them feel certain that their generosity goes to a healthy purpose. That's cool, I suppose. But what I liked about your gesture of giving was that it looked like you were simply trying to make him feel some human compassion -even if only for a moment -by sharing some cash. I may be reading too much into what I saw you do but it looked like your thumbs-up sign to him after he accepted your money said 'You owe me nothing for that. Good luck.' I wonder if you felt that the grin & salute he gave you as your window went back up was worth the change you gave him. Boy do I ever wish I knew what you guys said to each other.

Because of what I saw you do, I waved the homeless man back to my car and gave him a buck too. I said 'Here, buddy, I hope this will help you.' I know that probably sounds corny and was not profound at all but that's all I could think to say.

He simply replied 'Thanks. God bless you.' Then he kept looking at back and forth from your car to mine -trying to figure out if we were together and trying to make sense of his sudden good fortune from two cars in a row. His confused smile was good to see. I'm not sure if you saw it in your rear view mirror but when we drove off he picked up his cardboard sign and walked away from that corner where I see him so often. I'm guessing he wanted to end that day on a positive tip. Perhaps he will get some food. Who knows?

I don't mean to make us seem heroic because of the 30 seconds and small amount of money we gave. Some people dedicate their entire lives to helping the homeless. It's those people that are awesome. What we did was small (to us). The money he got from us may have already left that homeless man's hands. But I'd be pleased if the feeling he seemed to get from us doesn't leave his mind. I would do it again.

So thanks a lot, man. I sure did enjoy watching that."

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