People often say, “Don’t get old,” and they say this as if we have a choice.
They say, “If you do get old, then don’t get old and sick,” and again, people will say this as if we have a choice in the matter. But we don’t.
Next is, “Don’t ever get old and sick. But if you do get old and sick, don’t get old and sick and be poor.”
I suppose that’s all good advice.
My mother falls into the “Old” category and with five diseases in her spine; I think she falls into the “Sick” category as well.
She does not have the money she once did, nor does she have the posture or the spirit. Some days are better than others. There are days when she feels aware and days when she doesn’t.
There are times when her pain is less threatening and there are times when her pain crosses her threshold and it becomes excruciating.
As a partial fix, pain management can offer different ways to, “Keep her comfortable,” as her doctors say. But I know a little about the opiate world. I know what drugs do to the body as well as the mind. Yet still, the choices are pain or comfort—and no one wants to be in pain.
Since money is not what it used to be, the treatment she receives is humbled to a more generic form. We are fortunate, however, that she is well cared for and my mother is sided with good friends. And I’m grateful for this.
Life on life’s terms is frustrating. Bills come in, get paid, and then as soon as I catch up, next month’s bills arrive like it would through a revolving door. On top of this, life happens. So do accidents. Things break. Cars break down. Bills increase and so does the cost of living.
This is life.
They say charity begins ate home. I agree.
They say it is better to give than to receive. And I am sure this is true—but it wouldn’t hurt to receive a little more sometimes.
Nevertheless, I give.
I donate and I share. I do this because I believe in making up for the sins of my past. Plus, I believe that as a society, we are responsible for the survival humanity.
Like most on their way to work in the morning, I am lost in thought and in need of another cup of coffee. Monday through Friday, I make my way down 7th Avenue and pass the usual homeless people that hold signs explaining why they are on the street.
The other morning, I saw a man asking for change and he was dressed better than me. His eyeglasses were better than mine. So were his shoes, but this didn’t stop him from standing near 37th Street with a cardboard sign in his hand that said, “OUT OF WORK.”
I never look at the homeless man on 35th Street anymore. He sits with his little dog—and the dog is cute too. It does tricks; it sits up, and gives paw, you know, all that stuff.
The dog never goes more than three feet away from the homeless man, and of course, this pulls at the heart of everyone passing, so they offer him money to feed the dog.
Woman on 40th Street cries. She repeats the same thing each morning. “Please help me. I’m hungry and I don’t have any money to eat.” Meanwhile, she has food crumbs on her shirt and from the size of her body, the woman appears to be better fed than I am.
This is a part of my morning walk. Same as I pass them, I often see the same people on the subway, asking for money, and running the same story.
The stories change as we move closer to Christmas time. And why wouldn’t they?
The woman asking for money on the Times Square Shuttle is a widowed mother of two small children. Except, during Christmas. That’s when she ups the number and claims to be a widowed mother of three small children. In a way, I have become numb to them.
Not heartless . . . just numb.
Waiting for my evening train underneath the hustling streets of Midtown Manhattan, I stood near the ticket counter in Pennsylvania Station. I dodged my share of panhandlers. I put my headphones on to drown out the sounds of train announcements with music, and then I watched as floods of people made their way to their trains, pushing and shoving their way passed the McDonald’s, the Hudson News Stand, and then onward into the high-ceilinged concourse of Pennsylvania Station. Some of the crowd are sure of where they were going, and some are not as sure.
I watched a man ask a woman for change and she huffed him away.
“I don’t have any money for you!” she said.
She was angry too. It sounded as if she were insulted that he would even ask her, and she answered the homeless man in a tone, as if to say, “How dare you ask me for money!”
“Go get a job,” she told the man.
The homeless man walked away, slightly angry, and said, “Don’t ever be poor, lady.”
In response, the woman’s neck slid back on her shoulders. Her nose snickered as if she smelled something awful. Then the left corner of her upper lip curled, as if she was never so insulted in all of her life.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she responded loudly. “I won’t ever be poor!”
Right after, I heard someone amongst the crowd say, “See? There is no kindness in the world!”
Don’t get old . . .
Don’t get sick . . .
Don’t be poor . . .
My mother called me the other night. We talked about her bills that need to be paid. We talked about my daughter. We talked about her doctors, and I admit to my frustration because our conversations are often filled with me having to repeat myself. As she spoke, I thought, “When am I going to catch a break?”
Then my mother said, “I have a beautiful story to tell you.”
It seems my mother was in line at the register after an eye examination. She believed the exam was free. However, the young woman behind the counter explained, “Your glasses are free, but you exam was not!” and then the young woman behind the register coldly proceeded, “That will be $81.00 please.”
“But I don’t have $81.00,” my mother explained.
She began to cry to no avail. The girl behind the register was unmoved and uncaring. Broken and upset, my mother continued to plea her case, until a woman standing behind her stepped up to the register. The unknown woman extended her hand with a credit card in it, and said, “Please put it on this.”
The girl behind the register was shocked, but she took the credit card, swiped it, and this erased my mother’s debt.
My mother was very thankful.
At first, she was unsure why anyone would be so kind, and she was unsure if she should accept it.
My mother felt as if it was taking advantage of someone. And, I’m sure she felt humiliated by the girl behind the register. However, the generous woman explained, “It’s okay,” to my mother. “Just be sure to pay it forward.”
“I will.” My mother promised.
There is kindness in the world.
I’m still not sure if it is truly better to give than it is to receive.
I asked my mother and she said, “I think it is true . . . but it sure felt good to receive the other day.”
She told me, “Pay it forward, son.”
I will Mom.