Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What a Difference a Dollar Makes

Last week I went to see one of my very favorite bands, Pink Martini. They were playing with the Nashville Symphony and were more fantastic than any other time I have seen them because of the concert hall. Extraordinary. Really. If you have never seen them, shame on you and change that very soon. But that's not what this is about.

Lately I've been hearing about people being shot and kidnapped downtown. It seems a bit too much for Nashville where everyone is so friendly and nice, but we have to remember it's still a city. I parked in the expensive lot right across from the concert hall.

As I was about to use the pay machine, I heard someone yelling at me and when I turned to look, it was a dirty, old, frightening-looking homeless man. "Hey lady! Girl! Excuse me, lady!!!!" He was gruff and loud and I have to admit I was frightened and tried to ignore him. He walked right up to me and proceeded to tell me that I could save $11 if I parked in the lot a block away. I was quite surprised that someone who appears to not own a car knew the prices of the parking lots in the area. He did quiet down once he had reached me so I thanked him for the advice and hoped he would just move on. He was holding a small handful of pansies and offered me one. "I carry these around to hand out to the ladies." I thanked him and chose the purplest one.

He then asked me if I could help him get a hotel. Excuse me???? "Could you help me get a hot dog?" Oh, a hot dog. Yes, of course. I don't usually carry cash but I knew I had change from earlier in the week so I gave him the $6 I had. You would think I had bought him a house. "Six dollars!!! I can go to Burger King. My sweetie and I are pretty hungry. We can both get a meal there because they're $2.89 so we can each get one. Thank you. Thank you so much."

I waited to use the pay machine while he walked away but then he turned around again. "God bless you. And you know he does. Bless you."

That encounter stayed with me all night and throughout the weekend. Who the fuck gets excited to go to Burger King? That's what I settle for when I'm starving and nothing else is close. Starving. I really don't know what it's like to starve. Not truly. Not like that man. I think he told me his name was Jeff. He had manners and shook my hand. And, stupid me, in my flustered state, I shook his hand while still holding my debit card. I don't think he could have gotten far in his state or at his age, but he didn't even touch it. He was a gentleman.

My depression has been nearly overwhelming lately. The attacks in Paris. Political posturing and daily arguments from both sides. Sex slave trading. Shootings and kidnappings. The complexities of the world are too much for me to bear most days. I cry and moan over these things while I sit inside my dry house, sipping wine and snuggling puppies. Reading books that are easily bought; I can even have them delivered to my home. Under cozy blankets. Those things do fill me with gratitude. I have the love of friends, I have a job. I am thankful for these things.

But I'm also grateful that I had a small glimpse into the life of someone without these things. I'm grateful to know that people who live with so much less have so much to offer. He gave me advice on the price of parking and offered me a cheap flower he probably picked from an empty lot, but it was more than that. It sounds trivial even trying to describe it in words, but I think what he gave me is hope. Hope that even when you have nothing, when your belly is empty and you have let your pride go far enough that you will ask a stranger to buy you a hot dog. That even then, you can be kind to someone who has so much more than you. You can use manners. You can offer help. You can change someone's night or their weekend.

I hope my friend Jeff got to go to Burger King twice that weekend. I hope his flowers were accepted graciously. I hope he had somewhere dry and warm to sleep. I hope someone hugged him and appreciated his presence.

I hope we all have reminders of how lucky we are. How we're not alone. How it's the little things that bind us together. I hope we never lose this humanity.


The Martini Chronicles. Design by Exotic Mommie. Illustraion By DaPino