Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Helping Others

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Total Black: $63.02
Total Red: $230,428.32

If around lunchtime you walk by the corner of Wall Street and Water Street in downtown New York, you’ll probably see an older woman begging for change.  She’s hard to miss, especially for the guys, because you’ll probably hear “Hey handsome.  Got some change to spare.” or maybe “Hey beautiful, could you buy me a cup of coffee?”  Let’s just say she’s a bit forward in her panhandling tactics.  Initially, I avoided her, especially since she’s somewhat of a mainstay on that corner.  —I just realized the irony of my own thoughts: that after a few days of begging for change she should have been off that corner by now.  I’m nearly five months into my project and I’ve barely made a dent in my debt.  If I were dependent upon the kindness of strangers, I certainly wouldn’t have made any progress.

At any rate, I avoided her because of how strong she comes on and because she was always there complimenting and begging.  Then a few days back I walked past her on the way to Subway for lunch.  We hadn’t seen her in a few days.  I thought she had moved on.  As I passed her she asked for change.  I’ve taken to at least looking the homeless person in the eye to say I don’t have change.  They deserve that much, I suppose.  This time though I flat out lied when I said I didn’t have any.  And I felt badly.  I had two dollars in my wallet.  My last bit of cash until payday.  It wasn’t enough to buy me anything, and I was going to use my debit card for my Subway lunch purchase anyway.  So, on the way out of Subway, I stopped by her and handed her the two dollars.  She looked at me and said, “I love you.”  I must have blushed because she asked if I were Irish.  “A quarter,” I told her.

At the theatre gig tonight, I was again ushering Avenue Q.  Near the end of Act Two, one of the characters, Nicky, is out begging for spare change.  He had been kicked out by his roommate Rod and subsequently worn out his welcome at everyone else’s place on Avenue Q so he’s now homeless.  He runs into another resident, Princeton, and asks him for money.  So begins “The Money Song.” Eventually Princeton acquiesces and suddenly realizes the thrill he experiences by helping others.  When this song came on, I thought of the homeless woman on Wall and Water Streets and of how good it made me feel to help her out.  I also thought about an odd pattern I noticed whereby my donations to the homeless are rewarded by life.

Later that day, back at the office, I had someone reach out to me specifically to ask whether I could take her shifts on Saturday afternoon at the theatre.  I had been inadvertently left off the mass email distribution when the schedule went out, so all the back-and-forth emails that flew around about people needing to swap or get shifts covered, I didn’t get them.  This woman and I had been talking at the theatre staff’s holiday party and she emailed the theatre management to ask for my email address specifically to see if I would cover her shifts.  That occurred within a few hours of giving to this woman.  An odd coincidence, no?  And it’s happened before.  In A Minor Triumph, I mentioned that I had given in and given money to a homeless person I ran into on the way to back to this temp agency.  I had been there earlier to register and had to return to take a German language exam (or so they told me as I ended up just having to take it at home).  Soon after arriving though, and just after giving two dollars to this homeless man, the agency informed me that a new project had just come in and they were going to place me on it.  And since then, with minor breaks, I’ve been working steady.

Helping others helped me.  And two dollars worked both times.  I’m gonna keep giving two dollars, if only because, as the song says, “when you help others, you’re really helping yourself.”

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 20, 2009 at 23:08

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