On compassion

I’ve seen him at the freeway entrance on my way home from work for a couple of weeks. His sign reads “Homeless, hungry, please help.” I carry cash in my car, but the timing has never worked out correctly for me to give him a little something.

It finally—barely—did. I waved him over, before the light changed, and gave him a couple of bucks. He smiled, said “God bless you”, and took the money. Then from the sidewalk he smiled again and again said “Bless you.” I smiled back.

There were maybe twenty cars lined up waiting to get onto the freeway, and I was the only one who reached out to this man and gave him money. I’m not judging them. Humans are a varied lot. And I’m not holding myself out as a paragon of virtue. As with most people, I have faults that t’would be better had my mother not borne me.

But, I’ve lived 46 years on this earth. And I’ve learned a few things. I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago. I would hope I wouldn’t be.

Many would see my act of charity as contributing to the problem. If you enable them, they won’t get the help they need. You’re just putting a band-aid on the problem. You’re just making things worse.

He could use the money to buy drugs. He could use the money to get drunk. Those are possibilities. I don’t know him.

But I don’t need to know him.

Continue reading “On compassion”

Ties which bind

I had dinner with my ex-sister-in-law, M, last week. My wife has been helping her once or twice a week since she returned from caring for her father. M invited us for a meal, and of course we accepted.

I’ve known her since before she and my brother married in the mid-eighties. I visited them in 1984 for the L.A. Olympics. It was awesome, because they both worked, so I was left to my own devices during the day. (I didn’t do much. I mostly spent the time watching the various Olympic events on ABC. Being a 14 year old visitor to Los Angeles in 1984 before light rail and subways didn’t lend itself to getting into trouble.) From the moment we met, she didn’t treat me as her fiance’s little brother, but as a human being in my own right, whose opinions and feelings were as important as her own.

She and my brother divorced at the break of the millennium. The breakup forms a chapter in my novel The Genealogies. And it was this chapter which I sent to her last week.

Continue reading “Ties which bind”