Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Blazer, Red Scarf, and Fifty Bucks

--by FP, posted Jun 30, 2007
I have this college friend, Eric.  One thing used and still does always intrigue me about him is how he deals with the poor. 

We have a lot of poor homeless people that come walking around our neighborhood day in and day out, either collecting stuff from our trash to recycle or physically coming to the door to ask for anything.  Walking to and from class you pass by at least 4-5 of them daily.  Most of the time, the constant rush against time makes me pass by them without noticing, but Eric would always take the second (even if he's in the middle of an important conversation!) to take out his wallet and give him/her a dollar.

This may not seem like a big deal, because most students are USC have a dollar to give away.  Sure, Eric also isn't dead broke, but like all of us film school students, he doesn't have money to squander either.  What's more is that he doesn't just give them the dollar and walk away -- he makes sure he says a good word or sometimes actually sits down and has a conversation with them.   His sincerity is moving. 

The reason i decided to sit down and write this, though, is because of what happened last night.

Last night, another one of these homeless individuals came up to the house next door.  Four-five of us ignore him but Eric tells him to hold on a second.   He goes up to his room, grabs a blazer, a beautiful red scarf his sister gave him for Christmas and fifty dollars.  He runs outside, dresses the man in the blazer, the scarf and then hands the man the money!

I watched from inside the house, and I was brought back to my own life experiences where I understood the capacity for human compassion.  As you might imagine, the homeless man was beyond grateful, and he simply said, "There must be a God."

Eric walks back in, and I'm totally dumbfounded.  I asked him, "You just said you were broke.  Don't you need that money?"  He says, "I have to read something to you."  I go upstairs to his room and he pulls out this book he's been  reading -- Gandhi's Experiments with Truth.  Then, he reads me this quote:

"Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to have control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will fine your doubts and yourself melting away."

He shuts the book and says, "See it all makes sense."

I've been thinking about the experience and the quote all day today.
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Readers Comments

sethi wrote: Thank you so much for sharing. " be the change you wish to see in the world ". - gandhi
Sharon Hills wrote: A friend and i are going to thrift stores, especially at half price day, and buying coats for the homeless. We're taking them to a homeless shelter. So far we have more than 40 coats for them, with more shopping left! I told my family i am doing this this year instead of buying gifts that none of us needs like the homeless do. Going to look into the coats for kids too.
Judy wrote: This story, as do most of them, made me cry. I feel ashamed that i am not as totally kind; i am inspired to do better; and i'm in awe that some people are either inheritently so kind or have learned their lessons well.

And to the person who said "you are not supposed to donate to individuals", i am of that same mindset generally but after reading this story, i thought that maybe such a beautiful act of generosity just might inspire that homeless man in some way positive. Or not, but wouldn't it be great if we all could enjoy a few moments of unadulterated joy once in a while? !

Final thought, don't ever lose touch with eric. He seems like a guy you would want as a friend for a lifetime!
marg wrote: You have inspired me to give to a little baby girl who lost her limps to flesh -eating disease. Thank you eric for reminding us to be generous and give, give, give. You are truly an example to all mankind. Thank you so much.
Norman wrote: U sure made a difference to the guy. Though giving to charities seems OK, i believe there are times when spontaneity is all that counts. Whenever i offer to buy a street kid breakfast, the thought that goes through my mind is making the day better for that person. Various charities exist for these kids but then, who is my real neighbour? Remember the biblical narration on the samaritan? We all can play a direct role in other peoples lives. Eric, thanks for being a wonderful example to the spirit of human kindness.
Bluebell wrote: "sorrycharlie" I agree with giving to charities, but charities don't look at you in the eye, don't give you a smile worth millions don't give you the direct knowledge that at that momment you made a difference in someone's life and every one knows that what really gets to the ones in need is just a a small part. May we the world be filled with Eric's compassion God bless you.
k wrote: "sorrycharlie" has a point,( about giving money wisely, and to get the most good out of your gifts, monetary and otherwise) and I have two ways of looking at it - one is, when you give someone money, you give a gift and then it becomes theirs, to do what they want with it. when you hand over that money (usually) or gift, then you don't have any more control over it, and should not set conditions on its use. aren't the poor and downtrodden entitled to the same escapist choices that the rest of us are? if he wants to buy beer with your gift, well, it's his money now and he can do it. and when one gives money to a hungry stranger, one has to remember that it's only a bandaid on the problem. Maybe that bandaid (and the accompanying compassion that goes with it, ie, taking time to talk) will be the start of some kind of real healing, getting back to some kind of existence that doesn't require begging to keep going - OR maybe it will just make that one day a little better. Secondly - I do believe in the greater good of giving through charities, trusting that they channel your gifts to many who need it (we want to hope that is true, anyway). But I believe in face-to-face giving, even just a dollar or a bottle of water (I live in Arizona) And, as the self-congratulatory postings on this site can attest to, this kind of giving probably gives most to the giver.
Ronald wrote: Eric: You have truly shaken me of the chair, i can recall all the moments in my life when i cud have made a difference, but chose the other way. Thank you for opening my eyes. i see it when my younger brother does so much for people without even asking anything in return, and i can't understand, but this story has made me understand the importance of helping someone UNCONDITIONLY..
bharni wrote: What a kind soul! May God bless him
Ebbtide wrote: What a remarkable thing to hear about in today's world of people who primarily think of themselves and how to keep themselves safe and on top of all the challenges that face us each day. To hear of someone who set those initial priorities on the back burner to help someone ELSE first. Wow! Inspiring, truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing this story! We need more Eric's. ;). :).

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