It was an interesting and changeable autumn day. Somehow when you wake up to pounding rain with seemingly little hope of blue skies, for me anyways, it can be hard to find your inner peace and get up and get moving.
The news on the radio was reporting little improvement in unemployment rates and went on non-stop about the looming transit strike. Expect that traffic was backed up and at a standstill everywhere. Monday morning gridlock in the city. I got up, committed to take the 40-minute drive to start my week with my Zen stretch class, grateful that I would be able to leave at a time that would hopefully avoid the bulk of the traffic.
All in all, I was feeling very thankful that I had the freedom to set my own schedule and that the daily news wouldn’t affect me too much. Looking out the large studio windows I saw the first indication that the weather was surprisingly changing, as I caught a hint of sun peaking out of the grey morning sky.
The winds however were picking up and whipping leaves around the downtown streets. I was happy I didn’t have to be outside too long today in this unpredictable weather. Suddenly, large cumulus clouds filled the sky and the sun officially decided it would make a full-blown appearance.
Broke, Hungry, Please Help: Peace
As I was driving home, invigorated from the morning workout, I couldn’t keep my eyes off this exquisite fall sky, feeling that I was witnessing quite a peaceful heavenly landscape. I was stopped in the left turn lane at a red light at a busy city intersection, and my eyes came back to earth as I caught sight of a youngish woman, standing on the traffic island holding a hand-drawn sign. It said, “Broke… Hungry… Please Help… PEACE.” It had a big peace sign drawn on the bottom.
It’s hard to tell these days what age people are and if they really are broke and hungry, but something about her spoke to me. For those who know me, the idea of peace, both inner and outer, makes me a bit of a pushover for someone who wishes this to me. Even if it’s a stranger with a sign on a traffic island. I admit that my license plate has the word peace in it, as peace has become my ongoing personal quest. I’m committed to spread the word.
A Question of Belief
As I sat there a bit intrigued by this woman, I recalled all the stories I’d heard about not-so-down on their luck young people, panhandling and making quite a sizable amount of cash for a few hours just by standing at the perfect busy street corner or traffic light.
In that instant, I saw her as somewhat of an entrepreneur of necessity and frankly any skepticism or doubt about her intentions or integrity didn’t really matter at all. Jobs are becoming scarcer to find and to keep. We have huge movements around the world, protesting the inequity in the world’s economy and people are outraged that employment opportunities do not appear to be improving.
What Unemployment Means to Society
With unemployment rates still uncomfortably high, I understand why many people, regardless of age or abilities, are often feeling hopeless. Interesting thought, “an entrepreneur of necessity”. Even if this person wasn’t ‘really’ broke or hungry, I recognized that I didn’t know anyone who would choose to spend their time standing outside in sometimes inclement weather, hoping someone would give them money. As resilient as I am, I know I certainly wouldn’t be able to.
With the light about to change, I reached in my purse and pulled out the first bill I touched. I rolled down the window, made eye contact and handed her the money, receiving what seemed to me a very sincere and smiling, “Thank you. Thank you very much!”
My turn had come to turn left and I returned the smile, then called out, “You are very welcome”, as I drove away in my warm car. Throughout the drive home, I thought about how the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots continues to create a huge divide in society.
If things do not dramatically improve, I believe that more and more people will be looking for ways to feed and clothe themselves and their families. Maybe the small amount of money I gave this one person isn’t significant in the larger scheme of things, but I remember a lovely quote: “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”
Caring for Others
With real unemployment rates reportedly at 12.6% according to a Forbes magazine article, I wonder how and when things are going to get better. I’m hopeful that positive changes are coming as people continue to speak up and out for themselves through all the people movements gaining momentum around the world.
There are those who may call me naive for even taking a second look at this person and then for actually giving her money. I don’t see it that way. No matter what she chose to do with the money, (which I understand may have little to do with food), I was happy to acknowledge someone who was possibly in need. I have no reason to believe she was not broke and hungry, and for me, extending a small act of kindness might have contributed to making her day a little bit brighter.
Kindness is Easy to Give
As I previously wrote in my smile power article, we never know how much a smile or a small act can help to change someone else’s day. I realized that I do believe that those of us who aren’t broke and hungry can always find a way to help those who might be in need. Some might call me a sucker or a pushover, but as long as I can find a way to help another, I will. We can all find our own ways to serve.
May we continue to envision and work towards creating a world where fewer and fewer people experience being broke and hungry. Until that becomes our reality, please help. Peace.
How are you called to serve others?
Thanks Beverley for the article, these are thoughts that comes to mind in this period of the year when it is particularly difficult for those people who do not have families or relatives to be with or to get support from. Even though Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, it is also brutal for all people who are alone or who do not have much money etc.
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Thanks for your thoughts Katarina. Yes, there are so many who could use a friendly act of kindness and yet we all do get wrapped up in our own family happenings without necessarily thinking about others. It is brutal for those alone and it’s wonderful to see so many social initiatives that offer people a chance to meet in groups to spend time together.
What an awesome story Bev and it’s those thankless and unknown gifts that make the world of difference…but affects US more than the recipient I am sure. It’s easy for us to judge and determine whether someone is ‘broke enough’ to help them.. but we have to think past that. Great job!
Thanks Kristen! Each of us has things that call us to give without judgment of the other. You never know who really can use help or not, so I always go with my gut and follow my intuition in these scenarios. And yes, it does feel good to know you helped someone and that you took the time to “see” them as fellow human beings.
I think we’re all called to serve in some form or another. Some serve within their families, some serve outwardly. We have to get outside ourselves and answer our own calling.
Carol Rundle recently posted…God’s Lavish Gift-Giving
As long as we are giving in some way, I believe we are being of service in the world, Carol. I agree with you that we all are called to serve, and for each of us, it is individual in how we choose to do that.
What a great post and a great reminder to be kinder. I’m often embarrassed to go buy someone a coffee or sandwich, but really ought to.
Thanks Sonya and glad you enjoyed this piece as a reminder to be kind. In my experience, it is about reaching out and doing some small act and then seeing how wonderful it feels for both you as the giver and the person who is receiving. Hope you go for it sometime soon.
I have often struggled with handing out money to people on the street for the same reasons you mention in your article, Beverley. In the end, I decided that I’d rather be kind and generous of heart than skeptical and untrusting in these specific scenarios. I find that it’s too painful to watch the media these days, so I try to gather facts as much as possible while avoiding pontification and opinion. But I feel strongly that our society is in a world of hurt–on so many levels. If we can do one thing nice each day and that joy spreads, then we’re at least making an effort and a small difference. Thanks for reminding me today how lucky I am.
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Thanks for sharing your perspective on giving and being kind, Meghan. It is so simple to help another person and as I’ve learned, if it feels right…do it. Like you, it is staggering to here all the statistics and grim realities of our world today and all we can do, is call on our humanity and chose to relate to others from that place of human beingness. Kindness is so easy to give and so needed in the world today. If we can remind ourselves daily to spread some smiles and kindness to others, we are doing a great service to the world. Thanks for letting me know this piece was a reminder of how lucky we who live in North America are.
My business is all about serving others and helping them find ways to get what they want. And many times (although I know this isn’t the way to get rich, I will often give away several coaching sessions to women who struggle. And I make a point to be kind to people, offering sincere compliments as a way to lift their spirits.
Most of us give in our own ways, Jackie and often we give too much. I’m very guilty of this and yet find it challenging not to extend whatever the other person might be needing in the moment. I think this is where our intuition comes into play. Trusting that if we are called, in that moment, we do something. Being kind costs nothing and yet goes such a long way as well.
Beverley, this is a powerful reminder to not judge others as we all are going through something. It really costs nothing to be kind to a stranger or to your relatives for that matter. Sometimes I feel we treat strangers better than our family members. I do my best to pay it forward when I can, I buy people’s meals or coffees when I’m in line at a drive through or coffee shop. Once I paid for 15 coffees’ for people celebrating a relative’s 100th birthday party at a restaurant I was at. Thank you for the reminder to be kind.
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It’s been so interesting to read how others pay it forward in their lives, Tamara. Thanks for sharing some of yours. I love that you paid for 15 people’s coffees one time, as it shows there is no shortage of ways to give others, regardless of how big or small the act. More kindness is sorrily needed in our world today, so I feel grateful to know people like you, who are willing to let others know they matter!
Beverley, This is why you and I are such kindred spirits! My family and I usually adopt angels this time of year, and I give to the Food Bank every month. We have to help others when we can, so that others will remember grace, gratitude, and the gift of giving.
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This is a lovely way to give Liz! I love the idea of adopting angels this time of year, and the Food Bank is always such a needed cause. I also believe we have to extend our humanity to others in need, as so often the ones who need it most, are overlooked and feel isolated. I appreciate your line “so that others will remember grace, gratitude and the gift of giving.” In order to feel that, it must to extended to them so they know they matter.
Wonderful message to send out, Beverley and definitely one I take to heart. We have certain charities that we help with money and I’m looking for more we can help with our time and work. I think this is more then ever really needed.
Thanks for being the voice to raise attention on these problems in the world.
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Thanks so much Delia! It is a message that I hope more and more of us take to heart, especially this time of year when so many are in need. Like you, I do give to a lot of charities and yet, when I see someone live and in person in need, something calls me to offer whatever I can. It’s also great to give others with your time and the work you do, as this is giving back in a lovely and personal way. I appreciate that you see me as a voice bringing attention to world issues too!
What a wonderful post Beverley, your words touch my heart as do the images. Thank you for getting me thinking how i can better make a contribution xxoo
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Thanks so much Suzie! It really means a lot to hear that my words and images, spoke to you. I’m always happy to have been take a look at their own lives and see how they can contribute too! xoxo
Wonderful message Beverley and definitely one I take to heart. I’ve chaired the annual county food drive in our area three times and the work is incredibly rewarding, but never seems to be enough. Still, even one act of kindness makes a difference so we each do what we can do. Thanks for the inspiration!
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I think what you pointed out is the key to why so many people feel discouraged in the face of our growing societal issues. No matter how much we do, it never seems to be enough. In spite of that it is wonderful to focus on others and to help in whatever ways we are called to help. I imagine it is very rewarding to be involved with a food drive and to see how many people are grateful for the help. I agree that no matter how small, each act of kindness matters. Appreciate your thoughts and comment, Marquita!
You chose a very important topic, Beverley, especially during the holiday season, when many people may not have a fortune to be at peace if they don’t have ability to feed their families or themselves… I like the term you suggested ‘an entrepreneur of necessity’- Every time I pass the ‘entrepreneurs of necessity’ and offer some money, I wonder what else I could do to ‘teach them how to fish.’ My decision to become a coach and teach people how to manage money is my way of serving and teaching people, especially women, ‘how to fish.’ And I try to remind myself that you never know what happened to the person that is willing to beg… and so I give. ‘“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”
I appreciate your thoughts on this important topic, Millen, and yes, it would be wonderful if we could teach them how to be more self-sufficient and independent. Yet, I saw this woman, and many more like her, as being resourceful in spite of her situation. Having recently seen the new Richard Gere movie, “Time Out of Mind”, I got an inside look at the lives of homeless men in New York city. The “whys” behind their decline into homelessness are varied and often not easy to understand. It’s wonderful to hear that through your own coaching work, you are offering others an opportunity to learn “how to fish” and to have the tools and resources to create a solid foundation for their lives and the lives of their families. And yes, at this time of year, we all can do our part and take the focus off ourselves and look around to see who else can use some help. We most likely won’t have to look too far.
What a powerful post and share 🙂 Thinking about my service to others was not that hard as I try to help at least 1 person a day 🙂 I never expect anything back just feels good to give and be unselfish 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Wish I could more ya know?
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Thanks so much Joan. It’s wonderful to hear that being of service is part of your daily life, as I agree with you when you say that giving back feels good. Especially when the giving comes with no expectation of anything in return. We could use more people giving just because in our world. 🙂 Thanks for being one of them.
Beverley, first of all great post as always. We never really know what people are capable of or not until we are in their shoes. I feel for people that need to stand out on the street asking for money. I just can’t imagine how this feels and hope I never do. Sometimes I give money, if I have it but my husband does something better and I have followed him on this. He packs extra snacks in his car, and if someone is asking for food or money he gives them some food and water. It might not be much but every little thing helps.
Recently our local law enforcement was asked to dissolve an area where homeless persons were living. They were not wanted…they said it was not sanitary and it was a hazard. Well..we now have many more homeless persons in our area, and most of them probably suffer from some sort of mental illness. I just don’t get it, we need to have places where people can go for help, we need this to keep our society safe and our homeless safe and off the streets. It seems all too often it is easier to just push the problem on someone else. Thanks for writing this, as always I enjoy your writing and thoughts.
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Thanks for sharing your first-hand experiences in your own area with this issue of homelessness, Lisa. As I’ve mentioned in a few other comments, I recently saw the new Richard Gere movie “Time Out of Mind” about the homeless situation in New York. It was quite eye opening to see how varied the “whys” behind their situation can be. We can’t truly understand and we unfortunately live in a world where the gap between them and us is thinning. We do need more places for these people and more importantly we need to have a compassionate heart and see them as human beings in need. I love your husband’s idea of carrying extra food and water with him and often if my daughter and I go out for dinner and have food left over, we give it to the first homeless person we see who is asking for money. There are many initiatives in various cities who actually do go out and feed them, however, in the dead of winter, our concern should be for their safety and their shelter. Yes, there is a lot of passing the buck when it comes to these issues and my wish is that somehow, someday soon, we find some real solutions. I appreciate your support of my writing and ideas too!
“In that instant, I saw her as somewhat of an entrepreneur of necessity and frankly any skepticism or doubt about her intentions or integrity didn’t really matter at all.”
That says it all, Bev. I agree with every word you said in this post. The older I get (and the years are adding up) the more radical my thinking is on this. Suffice it to say, world hunger IS curable. I think that Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” may have been surpassed. As a people, our very futures – our ability for ANY of our grandchildren to eat – may depend less on DNA & more on our ability to cooperate.
I’d love to have a conversation with you sometime Joan, as you seem to be on the same wavelength that I am. The “Survival of the Fittest” theory that so much of our system is based on, is not actually true. In fact, nature (which we are part of), is based on democracy and co-operation and yet so few understand this. Yes, World Hunger is solvable, as are so many of the other issues we are faced with on our planet today. Our survival is at a very precarious tipping point. The Climate Change issue is one of the biggest challenges we face and we have the means and the power (if the people rally and speak) to make meaningful changes that could turn it around. My rose-coloured glass optimism has me believe we are closer than we think to real change. I so appreciate you reading this post and sharing your thoughts. And of course I am delighted it resonated so strongly with you. Many thanks!
What a beautiful story Bev! Joe and I were talking about something similar this morning. On the walk, there was a young man sleeping on the bench at the sports complex maintenance building. He had a sleeping bag and at first glance, he seemed at peace. Was he homeless? was he sleeping off last nights bender? was he in the doghouse with his wife? I don’t know.
What I do know is I just have to drive into the city to see people in need. I just have to listen to the news about the shelters that are closing because of reduced government funding. I won’t get into politics about where the government is spending their money.
Joe and I have our human and animal charities that we donate to, but it never seems to be enough.
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You sound like you are also a curious observer of the world around you, Gisele. This man you saw could have been any of those or all of them. He seemed peaceful. I just saw the new Richard Gere movie, “Time Out of Mind”, and it offered a very interesting look at a cross section of men who are homeless in New York. We can never know what is behind the “whys”. When someone asks for help, who do we chose to help? I don’t always help, but this woman spoke to me on another level of my being.
I also give to many animal and human charities and I agree, it never is enough. I give to 25 or 30 each year and find it challenging to chose which ones to support. If only I had more money to give. Is money the ultimate answer though? Really at the root of so many of our issues on planet earth, is that we aren’t willing to see and hear people, which is really all any of wants.
Beverley – wonderfully written. You’ve pointed out that the gap between have and have not is growing and it scary where things are going. I think we all need to think about how we can serve others. How can we help without looking for anything back and not judging the person we are helping.
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Thanks so much Heather. You have raised a really good question as well. How do we give from a place of pure intention and not receive anything back and not have an attachment to the result either. The key to our humanness is to never lose site of others and to be able to see them for who they are (and who they aren’t) and still have an open heart and willingness to help.
This is truly inspiring Beverley. I cannot tell you how many more times than not when confronted with seeing someone holding a sign like “Need money for food,” my feelings are topsy turvy. Sometimes I help, other times I don’t. I think I intuitively you know when it is the right thing. But maybe not, otherwise, why do I continue to walk away at time? You are truly inspiring with your kind caring and action behind it.
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I think you asked a very pertinent question Patricia. Why do we stop and help sometimes and not others? That is partly at the core of this piece I wrote. Why this woman, at this moment in time? It just felt “right”, so I followed my intuition and saw her and helped her. The outcome is less important than the intention. I appreciate you questioning yourself, as we all do this and sometimes the answers might surprise even us.
That you would show her kindness doesn’t surprise me in the least, Beverley–that’s you. And I’ve followed that gut instinct to give to someone begging as well. Sometimes it just feels right, you know? And I just love that you followed that instinct to do so.
This is such a huge problem, and one act of kindness does help.
Susan Mary Malone recently posted…This is how a Legend can Change You
It’s funny that you said “one act of kindness does help”, as I recently posted a quote “No act of kindness goes unnoticed” and I truly believe that as well. In the moment, following our instinct and acting from that, the outcome doesn’t really matter. When it feel right and we know it, there really is no conversation whether to act or not. Thanks Susan Mary for seeing “me” in this post. I appreciate being seen as the kind of person who cares and my goal is to always spread some of it around and hopefully others will follow suit.
Just a few weeks ago I did exactly the same thing & I had the same exact thoughts as I watched this man with a sign asking for money. First was, how do I know he really needs the money, then why would anyone spend their day like this is they didn’t have to. I gestured to him and gave him whatever I could. Regardless of his intentions; real or deceitful, ( I chose to believe they were real), I knew I had to help. I felt better helping a person in need and spread a little positive energy out into the universe.
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It sounds like you acted from a place of sincere intention, Lisa and regardless of the result, I also believe your intention is what was most important. In an ideal world, we’d like to believe that the other person will do something good with the money, yet if we give it freely with no attachment, then we have to trust the outcome. I see people all the time when I go downtown in Toronto and I don’t always give. This person, as hopefully the story conveyed, spoke to me on another level and I just had to give something. I felt she truly appreciated my “seeing” her and offering something.
I used to feel for children who used to sell newspapers and other things while driving on the streets of Delhi and even for homeless people but never gave money. Instead, if I had some biscuits or fruit I’d open the car window and give it to them. Or buy them some food from the nearest food stall, if there was one.
With the rise in crime rate and the tricks that some of them are up to, I now make donations to homeless shelters and other vetted causes. I recall one of the taxi drivers admonishing me for giving money saying that the money was used to buy drugs rather than food.
Sadly this happens in other countries too. I remember when my father was visiting me in Warsaw and I took him to the Old Town for lunch. He was accosted by a begging child and when I asked her not to trouble my father (she had caught his coat from the front and my father did not want to touch her for fear that she might make a scene – that happens too) , she got violent and threw me on the street!
I do my bit, Beverley but in my own subtle way.
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Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with this very huge issue, Vatsala. Yes, there are many incidents of random acts of kindness going array and ultimately we all chose what is right for us. I also give to vetted charities and yet, having recently seen the new Richard Gere movie “Time Out of Mind”, I saw a very raw look inside the homeless crisis and how as much as all of us do to support and help, there are many other factors behind the “whys”. If we are very in touch with what feels right for us, all we can do is act from that place and trust the outcome. We may never know what the result will be, yet somehow it is the spirit of what we are doing that is as important as the result itself. I appreciate you adding your memories and voice to this conversation.
Whoever might call you naive for helping another living human being would be one who has never been in need themselves. You’re so right… we all need to help each other out more, like you did. Beverley, to that one person you helped I BET you were the world to her that day.
Thanks so much for your compassion, Trish. It was such a powerful moment for me of whether to or not, and yet I acted from my gut and when you do that, it is always the right thing to do. And you are right. So many people can use a helping hand and yet maybe we become complacent and don’t even “see” them anymore. I also believe that we all deserve to be seen and heard and sometimes that is all it takes to make someone else’s day.
I am here to server other small business owners get and stay organized in their home and office. It’s been my calling since I got out of college over 20 years ago. And, I still enjoy it. =)
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That is so lovely to hear, Sabrina. To be so clear and have passion for helping others and to make that your mission and life’s work, is so wonderful to see and hear in a world where so many people are just working to make money and aren’t working from a place of being of service. Thanks for sharing.
Loved this post, Beverley. Kindness is definitely what it’s all about and I love that you determined that her actual need was not so much the issue as the opportunity to share kindness. If we spend time second guessing those who appear to be in need, or ourselves, the opportunity to be kind can pass us by. I think the fact you were coming from a headspace of gratitude helped the process. Beautiful post.
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Thanks so much Tami! So happy you enjoyed this post. Yes, when we act from our heart, the intention is sincere and the kindness is felt. This moment lives so strongly in me and it really reminded me of how blessed I am and how much need there is in the world. It seems no matter how much we do, there is always more to we can do. I appreciate that you saw both kindness and gratitude as the themes of this piece. They are indeed the themes of our humanity too.
What a lovely article! You are truly a woman who practices what she preaches. If you’re going to have peace written on your car, it makes sense to follow through. Who knows whether this woman was really in dire need but I’m sure that both you and she felt a connection and felt better as a result.
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Thanks so much Beth! So happy you enjoyed this post. There is so much need in the world and often I feel I can barely scratch the surface when it comes to helping others, yet in a situation like this, it just felt necessary to do something. And I agree. It ultimately didn’t matter what the “truth” was of her situation. It only mattered than I “saw” her and offered an acknowledgement that she matters.
What a beautiful reminder of the importance of kindness, Beverley. And, yes, this is a timeless piece for kindness never goes out of vogue. While the unemployment rates have dropped quite a bit since you first wrote this piece, the divide between the haves and have-nots continues to widen and deepen. A kind gesture accompanied by a smile can make all the difference in the world.
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Appreciate your supportive comment Deb and just confirming the message I sent you, that these stats are fairly current and surprised me as well. Kindness, however we choose to give it, is becoming ever more important in a world that has so many needs. There is such a huge divide between those who have so much and those who have little, as you mention, leaving it wide open how we choose to give. And a smile…yes that can go a long way to uplift someone’s day. Reminds me of the Dalai Lama quote. “Be Kind Whenever Possible. It is Always Possible.”.
Beautifully written and my service to others, well, is not something I have thought about until today. I guess I strive to help my piece of the environment and helping nature. I need to think more about people, I guess.
Renee Fuller recently posted…Create a Gold Leaf
We all have the areas of our own lives where we are called to be of service, Renee. There is so much need in our world, that whatever we do, is a contribution to bettering the world. I am also committed to the environment and animals and have quite a soft spot for people, especially those who don’t have a home or food to eat. Glad you enjoyed this post and it got you thinking of your own life.
This brings to mind an incident my daughter had when approached in Grand Cental Station by a woman asking for $10. She promised she would mail it to her in 2 weeks and so Beth gave it to her with a slip of paper with her name & address. She told us about this, all excited and neither her dad or I could dash the optimism of an 18 year old looking to help others and make a difference. We never talked about it but a few years later, a similar incident happened and Beth said, I know the difference now. I’m giving away this money freely and not giving my address.
Sometimes we learn these life lessons at the perfect time we can truly understand them, Roslyn. I think the fact is that Beth has a kind and compassionate heart and probably still gives freely whenever the opportunity presents itself. Thanks for sharing this memory with us!