A few days late but, Happy Lent everybody. For Lent I'm trying something a little different. I was going to keep it personal but maybe it's better if I share my experiences.
At least once every week I am going downtown to find someone on the street asking for money and buying them lunch.
My first attempt last week was a major fail. I was waiting for the bus to go home from work and a woman came up to me with a ragged paper cup, in tears, asking for money. At the same moment my bus showed up and so I was distracted. I don't carry cash, I told her so, appologized and got on my bus. Only then did I realize what an opportunity I'd missed to get a good start on my Lenten promises so I got back off my bus and wandered around several blocks looking for her but didn't see her again. Hopefully someone else was good enough to give her some money so she was inside somewhere getting what she needed.
The next day, eager after my failure, I found a young guy, probably about my age, who had just hitch hiked from Montana. He didn't want to leave his corner because someone else had promised to bring him some money after going to an ATM so I brought him some pizza slices and pop and he was very thankful.
Then last week on my way back from the Beat The Bridge team captain meeting (shameless plug: please join my team! www.beatthebridge.org/goto/bri) I tried to ask an old man if he'd like lunch. I learned then that, in fact, beggars can be choosers...I felt bad afterwards for not trying harder but he didn't want to walk with me but about 20 minutes the other direction to the waterfront for lunch. I guess he probably makes enough on that corner to buy himself whatever lunch he wants. He spat prolifically when he talked too so I wasn't exactly unhappy to move on at the time. Now it depresses me to think how easily I lose my resolve.
Today I found a gentleman I'd seen on his corner many times before. I took him to One Union Square and he picked the first restaurant I mentioned (he couldn't see well), Blue Water Taco Grill. He was probably in his late 40s though he looked near 60. His cardboard sign told me that he was a Vet so I asked him about it and he told me that he spent 12 years in the navy before being discharged after one too many bar fights with "those Marines...always looking for a fight." He was very mild mannered, thankful and kind.
I'm still working my way into being comfortable with this but I think I'll try to step it up next week and see if they want to eat with me as well. I think the interpersonal aspects of this whole thing may be more valuable to them than the lunch.
More to come, I suppose, as Lent progresses.