I live in a city where one can be asked for ‘spare change’ multiple times while walking down one street. It’s a city where the weather is so mild, many who have nothing come here and end up having to beg in the streets. Vancouver is strained with providing shelters and amenities to meet the basic needs of it’s residents. We are disparaged with epidemics of drug abuse, homelessness and a lack of affordable housing in general. Where I live, the rents are exuberant and the quality of the apartments ranges from ‘wow’ to debilitating. Yes, you can pay $1000+ for rent in the West End and still have bed bugs.
I will be the last person to look down my nose at someone asking for change, but I catch myself looking sharply away to avoid gazes and questions and commentary from them. I just don’t know how to deal with it. The only thing I have a lot of…is debt (student loans, yay). And, rather than try to decipher the legitimacy of the person asking me to empty my change purse into their hands, I usually fish out my laundry quarters/loonies and empty the rest into my local Starbucks’ tip jar, because I know that they are paid crap for what they do.
I will also be the last person to tell someone who is clearly unemployable to ‘get a job.’ Employable people struggle to find work so much in my city, it’s hypocritical for anyone to have unrealistic expectations of people.
But I don’t want to be a jerk who doesn’t give. Turning away from strangers is kind of a jerky thing to do. So, when my mind is in the right space, I try to remind myself of something I learned during my church-going days: It’s okay to get burned.
It’s okay to be giving and selfless and to offer yourself to your friends and get nothing in return. Really — it’s okay! Reciprocity is not meant to be an expectation. The spirit of giving is only about GIVING. What happens after you give, is beyond your control. Strangers or friends take advantage of you sometimes — you’ll get over it –it’s okay. Don’t let your fears of getting ripped off or burned prevent you from being the kind of person you want to be.
Does this mean I will give money to everyone who asks while I’m walking down the street? Probably not. Again, the only thing that I have a lot of…is debt. I want to be helpful, but I’d rather start closer to home. I have people who I call my friend that I can help when they are in need. Taking the steps to help without them having to ask is an exercise in itself…like paying it forward.
I don’t have much, but I don’t need much. Here…share my happiness of this reality with me. Then, when you are in my position, you can pay it forward to someone else.
Imagine never having to ask for a ride home. Fuck special occasions; imagine giving someone a present, just because you thought of them. Imagine not always having to split the bill.
That’s my random musing for today.