Ten years ago today, it was impossible to imagine what the world would be like in 2011. Now we know.
We’ve been reminded that as human beings we are capable of profound evil and enduring grace. We know that our paradigms of patriotism, freedom and security are subject to circumstance, and to debate. We know that the rich have gotten richer and the poor – poorer. And more numerous. Unemployment, homelessness, unaffordable health care, failed schools, crumbling infrastructure, toxic air and water – I really hoped (and thought) our country would be in better shape in 2011.
It’s easy to despair. Effortless, really. I even worry that my own attempts at doing good will backfire and I will unwittingly add to the trouble in the world. What if the $100 gets spent on enough heroin for a fatal overdose? What if I give the money to a homicidal maniac who uses the money to buy a weapon?
What about this, though? What if I could save someone with a small gift and I just don’t notice the opportunity, or I choose not to take it? That seems much more likely and somehow much worse. So, despite my doubts and worries, I am carrying on with my mission of giving away a hundred hundreds before the end of the year.
Louise and I are heading to the Gulf Islands tomorrow for a little vacation and I had a few things to pick up at the store. I always circle around the bottle return area and it was as busy as usual. I had my eyes out for The Right Person. An old car was parked in the turnaround, lights flashing. I hung back for a minute until the owner came along, her cart piled high with marigold plants (50% Off).
There’s that little park near Fred Meyer; just a play structure and some benches, really. There used to be a sign posted that said “No use of illegal drugs allowed.” The kids and I thought this was hilarious. Like, really? Doesn’t the fact that they’re ILLEGAL make it clear they are not allowed? Anyway, it was a beautiful day and even the cruddy little park looked pretty in the sunlight. I noticed someone sitting on one of the benches; I thought it was an elderly woman with her back to me. In front of her was a walker with a shopping bag balanced on it. As I got closer, I realized it was a man.
There was no one else there except a woman in an orange t-shirt who appeared to be just leaving. I went up to the man and said hello. We talked about the nice hot day and he laughed when I told him they have sweaters on display inside today.
“Not today!” he chuckled. “Maybe later this week we’ll need those.”
His name was Marty; he said he was just taking a rest before going in to do his shopping. As we talked, the woman in the orange shirt made another lap around the periphery and passed by us. I waited for her to be out of earshot.
I told Marty I hoped he could help me out by accepting a gift I was passing forward. Mildly curious, he said he would. I handed him the hundred and he looked at it, then at me. “Oh, my god!” he said. “This is a blessing. Thank you so much.”
I shared a little more about my mom and he said he was sorry about her passing. He said he’s retired after working for the telephone company and as manager of a bar for many years.
“Actually, this will really come in handy,” he said. “I’m kind of in a homeless situation right now.” I asked what he meant. He said that he had gotten sick and ended up in the hospital and then in a care center for three months. While he was there, he was evicted from his apartment and now is trying to start over.
“Wow, that sounds tough,” I said. “Yeah, it is,” he answered. Then he smiled his beautiful smile. “But the good Lord watches over me. He sure did today.”
Marty told me a little about his church and said he would pray for me. “Thank you,” I said. “I can use all the prayers I can get.”
I meant it, too.
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