I’m going to tell you about one of the most shameful things I’ve done in my life.
It’s just one shameful thing among many shameful things, including the time I kicked a boy I liked in the groin because I needed to know what would happen. Or when I stole an ugly bracelet from The Limited for that same reason.
Or when I cut the tongue out of my sister’s giant stuffed dog Wrinkles ... and then put the tongue in an envelope that I left on her bed for her to discover.
Please believe me when I say I had my reasons for cutting that stuffed animal’s tongue. Still, it’s a little psycho. I see that now. Do not be scared of me.
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But this shameful thing I’m about to share with you is different. It is not funny or at all endearing. And it continues to haunt and confuse me because the person who did this thing (me) is so unlike the person I know (also me).
A few years ago, I went out to dinner in Savannah with my then-husband. It was not a fun dinner (for reasons pertaining to the reference “then-husband”), and I didn’t eat much of it. I took the leftovers home in a doggie bag and, on the walk back to our car, a homeless man asked me for it.
I said no.
He didn’t ask me for money. He asked me for cold food I didn’t need. And I said no.
More than that I was infuriated he had even asked me. My then-husband asked me what was wrong with me and for some reason I felt compelled to make it worse by giving him a speech about all the people that homeless man had likely disappointed in his life. All the people he had hurt. I gave the man an imaginary existence. An abused wife. A deprived daughter. A former boss. Friends. All of whom he had probably taken from and lied to.
I still don’t know why I felt that way in the moment. Grumpiness? Standard-issue selfishness? I’m not sure, but I’m truly disgusted by the memory, by my greed, by the gross presumptiveness of my attitude. To my mind, I’ve yet to make up for the darkness in my soul that night. It represents the very worst part of my humanity, the part that tries to righteously justify an unkindness.
If I could go back in time, that night would be different.
Now I would like to tell you a quick story about people much better than me, strangers who warmed my heart this week and who reminded me to do better.
On Thursday, a woman posted on Facebook’s Bluffton/Hilton Head Ask and Answer page to ask the community about a possible scam. A woman walked into the Bluffton salon, where the first woman worked, and said she was sick and needed money for treatments. She told the woman in the salon that The Island Packet was doing a story on her and then asked for a business card so that she could thank the salon for its donation to her.
The woman, it turns out, has been doing this at other businesses throughout town.
Is it a scam? I know the answer. But, in the words of the wonderful people who took the time to comment on the woman’s post, it really does not matter.
It doesn’t matter if she’s telling the truth, they wrote in response. She’s in need. You did the right thing.
They remind us all that acts of goodness don’t need to be parsed, that giving a little money or some food when you can to a person in need is far more important than knowing the details of that person’s life.
“Never quit giving,” one commenter wrote, “the world HAS to have more good than bad.”
Just give, they said.