Stories of Kindness from Around the World

For The Beggar Who Wanted To Shoot Me

--by twocents, posted Dec 15, 2018
"Excuse me, do you have any work that you need done? I'm trying to earn some money," asked the man who approached my car window. He was gaunt, slightly disheveled, and had a weathered look that made him appear perhaps a decade older than his actual probable age.

My usual practice when approached by beggars is to first smile within, then smile at them and say an inner prayer for their happiness as I decline to offer cash. There's no art or science to this policy, rather an underlying but untested assumption that someone actively begging is misusing money and caught in some cycle of substance addiction. I wish that my awareness and sensitivity ran deep enough to have an appropriate response to every beggar rather than a go-to policy.

"Well, how about 50 cents? I'm just trying to get a taco over at Taco Bell."

I catch a flash of irritation at his persistence even as a double down on my go-to policy, this time with just a little bit more inner umpf in wishing him well. Yet in all truth, I was actually caught off guard by both his requests (with most of my attention on my cell phone) and only about 10% of my heart at best is actually in the prayer of wishing him well.

He starts walking away, upset at his rejection. I'm sure he believes I can no longer hear him when he said the words that shocked me.

"How about I hold you up at gun point and take what I f&$#in' want?"

Right after the shock passed through my system, a wave of anger passed through. For some fraction of a second, I considered getting out of the car and creating a confrontation with something like, "What did you just say?!" A moment later, I looked back at him. Maybe there was a knife or a gun in his baggy jacket, though I actually doubted that. Regardless, picking a fight, either verbal or physical, is just not in my nature. So what to do?

For a few moments, I contemplated calling the police. A beggar threatening that kind of violence may one day act on it. Taking him off the street is an act of public service. And he'd get a few square meals in jail too, if indeed he was actually hungry and not simply trying to feed an addiction.

But then I thought about how an experience with the police would simply make him more angry and bitter, and thus more likely to actually be violent in the future. What was the answer?

We have countless examples of suicide survivors who would not have attempted to end their lives if they had just received some small act of human kindness. Unfortunately, we also increasingly hear about mass shooters, whose backstory often involves being pushed into isolation or insignificance through bullying and shunning. Could a simple act of human kindness and decency have stopped one of these people from becoming killers?

I decided that the right thing to do was to go pickup something to eat at Taco Bell, and feed the man who thought of holding me up at gun point. He thought of taking my property or even my life, yet it would potentially be a greater harm to let that anger continue till it exploded onto someone else, esp. given that I was perhaps the only person who knew of his state at that moment. There was some danger involved, but simultaneously a great opportunity to live my values in a way that coutns and do my little part in perhaps saving one or more lives.

Last time I was in Taco Bell, burritos cost .79 cents. Now they are $1.85. Would have been easier and cheaper to just give the man 50 cents. Yet I almost never have pocket change, and the most common bill in my pocket is usually $20. Besides, giving money tends to lock us into a transaction where he becomes a beggar and I become a kindly stranger-benefactor. Both stories are fictions that do more harm then good, as our well-being is invariably bound up together. We're more similar than different, regardless of the apparent chasm between where our life choices have lead us. And yet a few moments later, my burrito arrives, and its time to live what I know to be true.

I scour the parking lot, walking up and down every lane of a very large multi-store shopping area. The man is nowhere to be found. I know that only one block from this area is a huge skid-row-ish tent city, one of many increasingly popping up all over the Bay Area. Perhaps the man could be found there.

I go about the errands I came to complete, every once in a while in a silent prayer for this down-and-out angry man. About 30 minutes later, I'm loading my car and I see another homeless man walking by with his dog.

"Hey Buddy-- have you had breakfast yet?"

He's sporting a huge camping backpack with a long beard. I notice some wounds on his face which in hindsight seem like those pictures of meth addicts, but his overall energy is one of sadness. He nods 'no' at me.

"Would you like a burrito?"

He walks over and I hand him the food originally intended for the other man.

"God bless you. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays," he mutters.

"Same to you. I hope you have a beautiful rest of the day."

May the waters of love and kindness flow downhill to those who walk in valleys of despair, quenching their parched psyches and hearts. May their lives and our lives, which are bound up together, be spared, and be lives worth living.
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Readers Comments

Babs wrote: My son does not drive, but moves about our city via feet and public transportation. He always carries a backpack. He always carries extra high quality, high protein food to give away to those he sees who are hungry. Two of the homeless men he has befriended have made their way out of homelessness. Although they have moved on, both of these men have come back to thank him for his part in brightening their path along the way.
mindyjourney wrote: A dilemma that you handled well, my friend. Prayers for all in need and all who respond to their needs 🙏.
Lipizzan wrote: your two cents are very nice, so kind and much appreciated 💘
Horse-friend wrote: Twocents, thanks a Lot for your post and writing Out the details one wanting to share is conflicted with. 💚
leoladyc728 wrote: thanks for the post. so worthwhile to read
smileswithhope wrote: Wow, thank you so much for this powerful story. Much gratitude!
kadirifarouk2 wrote: Merci beaucoup
cloud9 wrote: You overcame such reflex feelings that we all encounter.
Kudos to you. Well done.
I'm happy to have read such an enlightening story.
kvpsummer wrote: Not the intended outcome but the one that was meant to be. May we all be safe, may we all be happy, may we all feel loved
Harsha P wrote: And because of your journey, some of us may act differently tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your story.

Such a beautiful prayer to close.

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