Response to Daily Prompt: Nice is as Nice Does
When I was going to university in Berkeley, I saw more homeless people than I had seen my entire life. That’s not an exaggeration. If you’ve ever been there then you’d know what I’m talking about. I mean there’s a whole park full of transients called People’s Park. I used to live across from it and it got pretty rowdy.
In Berkeley, there were a lot of… honest(?) transients around the city. They begged for money to buy alcohol or weed. I guess I admired their honesty but I wasn’t going to waste my money just for them to buy such things.
Instead I used my meal points, which I had a ton of at the end of each semester, to buy loads of food and water to give to some of them, especially the ones I just… felt something for. You know how when you look into someone’s eyes and you can just see their pain? Well, despite my numbness at the time my humanity overcame it. So maybe I was fooled, but I like to think I have a pretty decent reading of people.
It all started when I exited the café, turkey sandwich and orange juice in hand. There was an emaciated, elderly man struggling to push his cart walking towards the opposite direction. I passed by him and managed to get about ten feet from him before running back to hand him my food. He was so thankful that he wanted to give me one of his prized possessions in his cart but I refused. I just gave him a smile and told him to have a lovely day.
Then there was the homeless veteran downtown asking for nothing but food. He stayed fairly close to where I lived so one day I made some pasta, placed it in a tupperware, and gave it to him along with a large bottle of water. He invited me to sit with him while he ate and so I obliged despite having class in about ten minutes. He told me about his time in the Vietnam War. It was really quite interesting. I love listening to the elderly talk about their experiences.
Altruism? I don’t think it was as selfless as it seemed. I did feel good about myself afterwards. And to be honest I realized that helping others made me appreciate my own life, which I fail to do sometimes. And maybe that’s part of the reason I do it. Or maybe it’s because I feel so privileged that I feel an obligation to share some of that privilege with others.
These days I open my heart to several causes including those involving dogs, the mentally ill, abused children, and bullying. If you have a lot of time on your hands, I suggest volunteering a few hours a week, even if it’s just sitting and talking to a five-year-old child. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it as much as they will.