Friday, March 30, 2012

I did something very strange.

A new friend, Kim, and I were chatting outside a convenience store in Itaewon when a Korean man with earbuds, a tan jacket, and a rougher-than-usual hairstyle came into our vision.  He turned and said, "I'm hungry."  Kim and I stared at him in shock and for a lack of any other ideas.  He stared back, realized our confusion, and got a little embarrassed.  He laughed, bowed his head a few times, turned to look for others, laughed again, and then wandered a little bit away from us.

I looked at Kim.  I looked inside the convenience store.  I looked at the man.

When I see homeless men and people with signs asking for money or food by the street, when I saw those people in America, I always had a knot form in my stomach.  I had serious difficulty eating McDonald's on the way home from vacation once because we passed one of these men on our way to the restaurant.  But I was never able to help them, I thought, because I was too young, I was a girl, and I shouldn't enable their lifestyle of who-knows-what.  I hate that.  I seriously hate that.  I'd much rather just help the guy.  I swear, if I were a dude, I'd pick up every hitchhiker I passed.

This time, I could do something.  I felt that same sympathy I've felt a hundred times before, and I could finally act on it.  

I moved toward the man.  He'd put his earbuds back in.  I reached out and patted his tan coat.  He started and stared at me.  I had resolve.  I beckoned him over to me and to the convenience store and said something about "food" and "you want?"  Cautious at first, he followed me.  By the time we were in the small store, he was ecstatic.  I motioned to the food and did my best to show him that he could pick whatever he wanted.  He moved over in front of the beverages.  "Drink," he said.  He picked out a Vitamin Water.  I told him to take two.

I led the way up to the counter.  The man marveled beside me.  I paid for the drinks, only an American dollar fifty.  His smile was so big.  He bowed his head so many times.  I know happiness, and I tell you truly, I've never seen anyone so happy in all my life.

My friends and I were leaving.  The man kept turning to look, smile, wave, bow, and smile.  A beggar nearby caught drift of what had happened and rose up from his place as I rushed past him down into the subway.  My friend Drew followed me, calling to tell me to wait for our friends.  I stopped once I was safe underground, but I wanted to be away from what I was sure would be a pressing I couldn't bear from other beggars.

Anticlimactic maybe, but this is what happened.  The urge to try to make something right, the action, the glow from the helped, and then running away.  I've got nothing else to say, but I'm really curious about your thoughts.

Have you ever formed a relationship with a beggar?  Given a ride to a hitchhiker?  Gotten shy about helping and then felt strange afterward?

I don't know.  I feel like there's something here that I've left unprocessed.  It's just all so... strange.


  1. Wow, that does sound like a kind of discombobulating experience. Sounds like it was worth it though.

    I can't say that I ever have done anything like that with someone asking for something.

    I remember the first time I ever saw beggars that I can remember was in Louisville when I went there for New Attitude and I almost gave them money, but then felt really foolish for wanting to because one of my older friends said that the two who were asking were obviously drunk and would just have spent it on more drugs or alcohol or whatever. So since then I've always just tried to ignore them.

    I think if someone is legitimately just asking for food or something though, that's a different situation.

  2. It's amazing that you actually went into the store with the man - I would be far too afraid. One time I brought a man standing on a street corner with a sign some food, and another time Chris and I got a fast food gift card for a man who came up to us in a parking lot. Definitely scary both times, but I felt so good after. I will never give a person money, because I don't want it to be used for drugs or alcohol. If they're telling me they're hungry, then I am going to give them food, or something that can only be spent on food. I definitely don't help every person I see, but it's nice to be able to do something sometimes.


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