I work in low-income areas and am surrounded by poverty during my workday. It is humbling, to say the least.
Today a disheveled and dirty man approached my car and asked me if I had money to give him for the bus. He held up a single bag of food and explained that he'd come to the food pantry to get food for his family and did not have enough money take the bus home. I reached for my purse and realized that the only cash inside was the money that I had been given for my birthday. I'm ashamed to say that I paused for a moment because, as a mother, I rarely buy myself frivolous things and had plans for that $25. However, I could see this man, shivering in the cold next to me as a sat in my heated car, and I decided to give him all of it. This man, a grown man that has seen the troubles of this world firsthand and had possibly the saddest and most tired eyes that I have ever seen, saw the amount of money that I had placed in this hands and he cried. He cried breathless tears while simultaneously grinning a gap-toothed smile and thanked me a dozen times. I cried along with him as a accepted his thanks and watched him literally skip away in joy. Happiness was swimming around us as fervently and true as if happiness was a person itself. Joy was rising. I could almost hear the heavens open up and sing, so joyful was my heart.
Then I watched him walk past the bus stop that was just a block from where I sat. And, my joy came crashing back to Earth. I wondered if his story about needing a bus token had ever been true. I felt duped. I felt as though the gift that I had wanted to buy myself had just been stolen out of my hands. I felt shame at being taken advantage of. It was not my finest moment.
As I watched him continue to walk, I saw the joy in his steps and felt my own happiness return. I had just had a moment of absolute beauty, a moment of purity in a cruel world. I would not allow my mind to imagine ways out of the joy.
The truth is that the joy in that moment of connection was beyond worthy of giving up what was a small amount of cash for me and likely a large amount to him to receive. In that moment of joy rising, we experienced a minute of divine human connection that transcended the dirty, urban street that surrounded us. Here's the other truth- once I had given the gift, what that man did with the money was none of my business. That's right- none. My karma, my joy, my role was as the giver and as such I do not get to quantify what the recipient does with the gift. To do so is like giving your child a Christmas present and demanding that they play with it how and when you tell them to. There would be no joy in that gift. It really isn't a gift at all of we choose how the recipient enjoys the gift. Now, I believe that this man likely did take a bus from another stop or was so thrilled with the money that he bought more food before getting on the bus...but no matter, it's none of my business. It's not my karma what that man did with the money.
I'm sitting here tonight allowing myself to replay, over and over again, the joy of that moment of humanity- the pure joy of being able to give something that was desperately needed by another human being. It was a sublime moment. I am grateful to have experienced it, no matter how the gift was spent.