Thursday, October 04, 2007

Leftover Questions

On Sunday I had the privilige of seeing Todd Agnew on the Better Questions Tour. One of the things that Todd talked about was not just seeing the poor (others, really, the poor was a notable example) as them and not us, so to speak. This has been on my mind a lot. I've been poor before. Most likely I will be that way again, especially if anything happens to my dear spouse (a fact which I really hate, I would much rather think about grieving his loss than I would how in the world I will survive without his financial contributions.)

At the Mute Math concert I saw a lot of people who probably were wearing their houses on their backs. Sometimes I wish I knew the appropriate response. Giving money is not something I feel I should do, although I admit to giving a dollar to a guy who brought out an instrument and started to play recently. He really was good and I took his photo, so I felt he earned it no matter how it ended up being spent. But I want so much to do something. I made one guy really mad at me in SF for telling him I didn't have anything (I actually was at a stoplight and he told me where I was), when I had $3 sitting there. In all honesty, I just thought I had a few dollars in my wallet, in my purse and not at all accessible, but then I realized it was sitting out there.

Anyway, I don't want to lie to people about money, but I don't want to give it out indiscriminately, either. In fact, there was a rather inebriated fellow outside the venue after Mute Math's show that approached us. He was so intoxicated that when he spoke there was almost no volume. I don't think he realized this, although people would say, "what" and strain to hear. He also spoke Spanish, of which I speak very little (much to my sadness, I wish I was better at learning foreign languages.) Fortunately, two others were there to tell him "lo siento" and that they had no money (I could understand that much.) LOL I tried to think of what I would say, and thought that I did have money, but didn't want to lie. I think this creates more questions than answers for me sometimes. I really don't like to be dishonest, and I hate being patronized, so I hate to do that to others... but sometimes what can you do?

I was thinking about this in terms of loving. I'm not sure how I would want to be treated if I were drunk on the street. Quite possibly I'd just want another drink. I know I used to talk to people outside abortion clinics years ago in Sacramento. One guy said he used to play with a known band and now he was being stupid on the street, although he wasn't at least totally wasted at that moment. He seemed to have a few regrets about it... so I just asked him what he was going to do about it. He said, "about what?" and I replied, "About being stupid on the street." I think I'll always remember that conversation. There has to be ways to be honest without being brutal. I can't remember if he asked for money. He most likely did.

On another occasion, this guy stopped a friend and I and asked us for money because he was going to jail and he wanted a beer. (I believe alcohol was involved in the reason he was going to jail in the first place.) We had a funny and very candid banter with him about it. He left in good spirits, still trying to get at least a quarter, and not finding any resolution. I wish there was so easy an honesty in every instance. You have to at least appreciate honest drunks. :) (Wait, is that a pc term?)

Someone wise mentioned that we shouldn't give money to the homeless and that it was the worst thing we could do. This really brought to mind the time that a woman (not homeless, I think she was in board and care) would approach every Saturday morning and say she wanted money for coffee. Invariably someone would go over and buy her a coffee. One morning someone gave her money for coffee, and someone else apparently gave her more money than she needed for coffee, so instead of coffee, she bought alcohol, came back, turned on them, and got almost violent. They learned their lesson, and it reinforced things in my mind as well. At the time another wise man said that he kept coupon books for fast food rather than giving money, he would give those to people instead. I liked the idea, but with the "cards" it's a little more difficult to do; and one never knows where they will be or if that place will be nearby.

At any rate, this has been going through my mind a lot lately. How do you best love the unloveable? I don't feel like they are so different from me. Sometimes I'm not so loveable myself. All I know it is that sometimes it takes personal involvement, but even that can be tricky and I've had to be extricated from those situations on occasion as well.

So, what is a girl to do?

Anyway, just wondering how others handle such dilemmas.


P.S. On a happier note, the Mute Math concert was breathtaking. It really was. I am still in awe over their performance. I'll post something about that most likely this evening. Boy, am I chatty lately?


Andrea said...

I don't like giving out money to ppl because im sure it's not for food. I feel bad and I always wish I could do something for them other than just pray.

Melanie said...

I know exactly what you mean. I was discussing this with my husband and his response was, just tell them "no" and that I didn't need an explanation. He's probably right, but I feel the same way, like I would like to do something. I'd like to do something about a lot of things, but just knowing what, how and when is more difficult.

Andrea said...

exactly! oh well. :S

Brian Cutler said...

I found your blog! Hey Melanie, hopefully you remember me. I was standing next to you at the Mute Math concert and we chatted briefly before the show. Did you ever find your lens-cap? I can't wait to see the pictures!

I appreciate your comments about giving to the homeless, it's something I struggle with too. I want to help them but know that any money I give them will most likely be used on alcohol. Still, I don't think I should withold my charity because of the way it might be used. So if a homeless person hits me up for some change, I'll always give it to him... if I'm carrying any, that is, and usually I'm not. Besides, sometimes I feel like I'm just one bad day away from being in his position.