I come from a family of rather practical parents. My dad, for all the good he provided us, never has been as long as I’ve known him, a very generous giver to strangers. He gives to his friends, he provided for his family, but he loves the mantra, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” and “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.” He earned what he has, and wouldn’t even be wary of, but rather confident in his looking past the stranger on the street with the cardboard sign. Dad spent years and years of his life in the military and has cultivated a strong pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-even-if-you-aren’t-wearing-boots mentality.
Mom was a bit more forgiving than that, though I still remember being told to lock our doors when we drove through certain parts of town in certain cities. Were I a kid and we were driving past Lake House at night, I’ve no doubt she would say the same thing about E. Lake Ave. off of Nebraska, even though now I frequent that part of town on a regular basis, car windows down, and know people that live there. I don’t remember giving to people on the streets, but I know mom talked about food vouchers to McDonald’s and other such places, so that people could buy food and not alcohol, and practical things like that, to ensure that giving wasn’t taken advantage of in the wrong way.
I recall my parent’s attitudes on cardboard-sign folk not to berate them or belittle their attitude, but to show where I come from, because I think that where we come from always has some effect, whether latent or painfully obvious, on where we are now, and how we act now. Also, I shared it with you, because the practicality and criticisms of giving to people on the streets asking for money, food, whatever else you’re willing to give them (the occasional sign that says, “Why lie, I need beer”) always run back through my head when I encounter moments like I did today. On S. Dale Mabry there was a young-ish looking fella with a sign that said, “Just hungry, anything will help.” I was on the far right of the median from where he was, and had to motion and get the attention of another vehicle in order to ask them to get his attention. Nate and I had a handful of change in a plastic cup shoved between the e-brake and my seat and a “business” card for Lake House which gave times for the meal on Wednesday and their address/phone number if someone wants help that we can’t give. The SUV we motioned to was trying to get the fella’s attention, and as I think they did so, he happened to see me. I waved and held out my handful of change, beckoning him to come to the car so I could give it to him – the light had been red for a bit, and I don’t usually run out in traffic on roads like that or really any traffic for that matter when I’m the driver. The young man looked at me waving, looked at my hand, looked at my car, looked away and kept walking down the median with his sign. It was strange. I don’t know if he didn’t want what I had, decided he hated my car, didn’t want to walk the lanes of cars anymore than I had to get to the median, or what, but I have felt slightly baffled by the whole thing all day.
I also feel like with all that diatribe that I included at the beginning about where I came from and my funky story from today I should say what I think I feel most about giving to people on the street – or not on the street – that need something. Giving, I feel, just like love, should not be contingent on the way that other people decide to use what you’ve given them or treat you. Parents love their children regardless of what they do with that love – a serial killer’s mother probably loved him all the way through the injection of the death sentence, not because of what he did, not even necessarily in spite of it, but that’s just because that’s how love works. If you expect someone else to act a certain way in response to what you give them, you are likely going to be disappointed more often than not. Giving is the same way. If you want to give, because you care, you can’t expect that the things you give are always going to be used well, that a thank you will be given (sometimes ever), or that the person you gave to will even understand what you gave. You give cause you care, and that’s what you should do as a human being – what they do with what they’ve been given isn’t what you’re ever going to be responsible for (um, unless you are just going around handing out booze bottles, in which case you may hold a wee bit more responsibility for their drinking habits. ha).
In exchange for some free gear, and because I support what James Barnett stands for, I painted the trunk of my car for CYNY (Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself). He lives out his beliefs, and appropriately, I wrote above the stencil I made, “Love is better acted out than talked about.” This is what Jesus did, this is what the general rules of humanity call us to do – I don’t know that many people that would argue with it, but there is always a lack of people actually doing it.
In other but somewhat related news, Nate and I are down to one car since his is officially way more to fix than he paid for it and than we have available. My car is, as always, getting more and more ghetto-rigged as we fail to have immediate cash to fix issues as they come up. Our friend Benji took out part of the thermostat housing, so it won’t overheat, and combined with that fix, he rigged a switch to control the radiator fan (see picture). But, because there is also a motor problem on the fan, and not just a thermostat sensor issue (though that was part of it), occasionally we have to hit the fan with a hammer when we turn the switch on before we start the car in order to ensure that it is running properly. Awesome, right? Well, we kinda think it is, because at least we know it won’t overheat and we know how to keep it running “properly,” even if it takes a few weird steps for that to happen.
Because we only have one car and I was going stir-crazy tonight doing study guides for my two Psychology midterms on Tuesday, I took the liberty of walking the 1.7 miles from our house to Starbucks on Fowler, a revisit to my FC days where I used to go several times a week to alternately study and waste time with great people and envy over Brianne Bohannon’s crossword puzzle skills. I accomplished a good bit, felt old when I told the people next to me that I had Mr. Peeler as a professor six years ago, and then bummed a ride home, since I’m sure Nate may have objected to me walking in the first place when it was light outside, but most definitely would not have been ok with me walking home at 10 pm in the dark by myself without any pepper spray or a big stick handy.
I forgot that it can take so long to walk 1.7 miles when you are carrying textbooks, aren’t in a terrible hurry, and it’s horribly humid outside. Really, walking, when leisurely can be rather time consuming. I prefer biking, but don’t have a proper backpack, and see too many memorials for dead cyclists on certain roads to try my night biking out on them for the first time. Appropriately, the song linked at the very bottom here (which I love) played on last.fm as I started back up on my schoolwork, post-shower. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, since you did a lot of work to get to the bottom of this wordy post.