When I was living at home I use to hate it when my mom would command me to come out of my room because we have visitors because I knew that meant one thing: I had to go greet our visitors and ask if they were hungry or thirsty. If they were hungry I had to feed them and if they were thirsty I had to get them something to drink. Looking back now,I am grateful that my mom made me be the one to do this because now it is so easy for me to ask a total stranger if they were hungry or thirsty.
Who would have thought a Laotian tradition of seeing to the comfort of our guest would actually help me to comfort those outside my home.
We should began each day with an act of charity. The first gesture should be towards ourselves because in order to teach others to value themselves, we must have a positive opinion of our own self-worth. In order for that to happen, we need to be less judgement to what we perceive as our faults and flaws, whether it be physical or emotional. There is nothing wrong to admit our weaknesses, but to fixate on it on a daily basis can prevent us from seeing the goodness in ourselves as well as others. This brings to mind the definition of charity according to Encarta, “the willingness to judge people in a tolerant or favorable way.” I like this definition because it is the reason why we give to charities or create one of our own. We give to others because we want to help them no matter who they are, what race they are, or what they are like. We are tolerant of other people’s faults because we are aware of own shortcomings. At least that is how I see it.I am saddened by many things I see everyday. One of those things is the homeless situation in my community, the nation and the world. I can’t stand the idea that a person has no home to go to at the end of the day because I equate home with warmth, security, and happiness. When I see a homeless person I wonder what they are going to eat today, where are they going to sleep at night, who is going to be there for them when they are depress or angry about life. Also, I think about who cares about their welfare? Where is their family and how could they let them be homeless? I know there are a dozen reason or justification for a person being homeless, but it still upsets me to see them like this.
A couple of years ago I met a homeless man at the park who made me realize two important thing: 1) always act on my impulses 2) see the goodness in others no matter what. As I was leaving the park with my friend I noticed a man sleeping on the grass . His fits of coughing spasm cause me to stop, lean down and lightly tap him on the shoulder to ask if he was okay. What started out as a polite question about his well being turned into a conversation about the mundane: the weather, the other people at the park etc. Our topic of conversation was pretty random and nothing deep, but what happen afterwards had a profound affect on me.
I told the man to take care of himself and as I started to leave,he said, “Thank you for the conversation.” That was it. He didn’t ask me for money, food or anything. I stared at him in surprise, amazed that he was grateful for our conversation and that was it. When I got into the car with my friend I was telling her how bad I felt that I didn’t have any food or drink or something with me to give to him. I could have gone back and taken him some food or drink, but at that point I didn’t how to help him without making him feel awkward that I knew he was homeless. Even though I had nothing to give him except my time, I felt that me simply talking to him as an equal was valuable.
Since that day, I have learned to act on my impulses to help others without fear of what others will think of me or fear of humiliation of assuming too much or too little about someone’s situation. When I see a homeless person I make it a point to ask them two things: 1) how are you and 2) have you eaten anything today? Of course, I am sometimes uncertian whether the person is homeless or not, but it doesn’t hurt for me to ask those two questions. Getting yelled at or being told to go to hell is a small price to pay. So far, neither has happened to me. The people I meet has always accepted my offer of buying them a meal whether it is at a gas station or at a fast food place, wherever I see them. I don’t expect anything, not even a thank you because I do these things because I want to. Knowing that I have ease their hunger for that brief moment is more than enough. Looking them in the eye and telling them to take care of themselves and not give up hope is something I always do when I walk away.
An act of charity is not just giving of things or monetary donations, it is act of caring for others with our words and deeds.