“That Peppermint Pattie sure looks good”, Robert said, eyeing the candy in my hand that I had recently purchased from the store. Robert continued to explain that he had recently been released from prison after serving ten years and was struggling a bit on the streets. This fact was made even more apparent by the appearance of his clothes and the state of his bicycle, which carried two plastic bags of what I assumed were can and bottles for recycling.
Although I couldn’t tell if his prison story was true of not, it faded with the fact that I was apparently going to have to give up my candy that I meticulously picked from a group of beaten up and half melted choices. “You can have this candy”, I said reluctantly half hoping he would turn the offer down. “Thank you man, I really appreciate it”, Robert said with a look that I perceived as genuine gratitude.
As I walked through the parking lot a sat in my car, a wave, a feeling, a pull swept over me. I suddenly had the urge to give something, anything to Robert to help him out. I didn’t just want to give him a piece of candy as if he was some kid during Halloween.
Just as that thought arose, another more negative one began to chime in and so began the two minute epic battle in my mind.
“It’s a scam, how do you know if he has ever been to prison?”, ” He might be a crackhead trying to get some money for drugs, plus you gave him your candy out of guilt, isn’t that enough?”, ” You have bills to pay and giving to him may cause you to go without.” “What would your wife think?” Although these are all good points, there was something pulling at my heart, something that made all the excuses and “truths” fade away.
I got out of my car and headed to an ATM. On the way I passed Robert, still enjoying the candy that I had given him moments earlier. “Man, this is good, haven’t had one of these in a long time.” I returned a few minutes later with $40 and gave it to Robert. Now believe me that this money was going to pay a bill, there was a definite plan for that money. I apologized to him saying I was sorry that it wasn’t more, but I don’t think he heard me as his eyes began to fight to hold back tears. “Thank you so much, you have no idea how much I needed this”, he said. Robert told me a little more of his story, he thanked me again for the money, and then we parted ways.
I sat back down in my car and pondered what just happened. Giving money to people who are homeless or down on their luck is nothing new, but for me the thing was that Robert never asked for the money, I was compelled to give, my heart felt heavy and the only way to alleviate that feeling was to help Robert. I am not an overly emotional person, but I found it difficult to fight back the tears. Why?, I thought about them for awhile and I think the simple act of giving with no expectation of return, the choice to give made me feel good.