Yesterday, I took my brother's puppy to the pet store to spread some kindness. My mom and sister have been watching him while my brother is at work and when I went to pick him up to go to the store my mom gave me money in case I saw something cute to buy him. As we walked around the store, I looked at various options but started to feel uncomfortable. Here was a whole store devoted to pets with everything you could imagine, while some humans struggle to survive and others die for lack of basic necessities. The puppy and my family's other dogs already have plenty of toys and everything else they'd ever need.
I decided not to buy anything. When I told my mom, she said to save the money for myself. She won't take "no" for an answer so I graciously accepted and decided to use the money to do some good, perhaps donate it. I had a few ideas but decided to wait and carry the money with me for an opportunity to arise.
Today it was 14 degrees outside. By the time night fell, it was 8 degrees. It's the type of biting cold that stops you as soon as you step outside. You zip your coat up a little higher and pull your hood on a little tighter, rushing to get to the next warm place.
On days and nights like these, I always think of the people in my city who are homeless, who may not have a warm place to rush to. The shelters fill up and the need is greater than the resources. I realize how fortunate and blessed I am to have a warm home, to have family and friends who are caring and generous who would be able to take me in if I ever needed it. I realize it could just as easily be me out on the streets, if I had been born into different circumstances.
Tonight I thought of this as I sat under a blanket in my sister's warm and cozy house waiting for my laundry to finish drying. When it was done, I was about to leave and go back to my own apartment when she called me from the grocery store to see if there was anything I needed. I told her no thanks, as I had already gone earlier in the day.
Towards the end of our conversation, she mentioned that there was a man who was homeless sitting inside the grocery store, no doubt trying to escape the cold. She said that he was holding a sandwich and sitting on a bench. It was a 24-hour store, so she was hoping they'd let him stay there through the night. I hoped so too. I figured as long as he had bought something, they would probably let him stay for awhile, at least as he ate. But, I worried what might happen afterwards.
As I drove past the store on my way home, I felt a familiar tug on my heart to stop and give the man the money I had been carrying with me. It would be enough for him to buy more food, even a blanket or extra clothing. Enough for him to have money to buy things to stay in the store, if necessary. It wasn't a perfect solution, but I hoped it'd at least help for tonight. I said a quick prayer asking for guidance and, not surprisingly, heard "Yes!"
The pull on my heart and the prayer got me into the parking lot. Yet, another familiar feeling, one of hesitance, was now keeping me in my car; part shyness, part fear of how the person might react, but also a sense of awkwardness about approaching someone and giving them money when they aren't asking for it. I sat in my car, building my courage, feeling strongly that it was the right thing for me to do, praying for some help to do it. Finally, I got out and walked toward the store.
Upon entering the store, I saw the man on the bench, sandwich on his lap. I walked past him and wandered around the store, more prayers for courage.
Why is it so hard for me to act from my heart sometimes? Finally, I walked up to him, smiled and offered him the money. He said "For me?" and I smiled and nodded. Then he smiled and said, "Thank you very much!" I smiled again and said, "Stay warm." I wish I had the means to do more to help. As I left the store, another familiar feeling, a mixture of emotions, and tears, too. I hope someday everyone has enough to eat, a warm place to sleep, and people who love and care for them. In the meantime, I'm going to try to keep stretching myself, moving past the fear to share the blessings I have been fortunate enough to receive.
I called this story "Kindness Ripples" because without my mother's and sister's kindness, I wouldn't have been led to my act of kindness. So, their kind acts rippled outward and, unknowingly, touched this man's life. :)