Have a think about this
Comments 21

Kindness Doesn’t Cost Much

On a daily basis, I try to maintain the idea that humans are not inherently cruel. I work to be kind to the people I come into contact with, whether it is a stranger, a friend, or a coworker. The golden rule we learned alongside building block towers and playing house still rings true: treat people the way you want to be treated. I would like to think if I were hurting or hungry, that somebody would step up to bat for me.

Sometimes, I’m unfortunately reminded that humans have the power to be pitiless, distant, and extremely apathetic.

I found myself sitting on the ground somewhere in Queens, alone, exhausted, sweaty, and frustrated. I had accidentally looked down at the wrong time on the subway, and before I knew it, the subway doors had closed and I missed my stop. Unsure of what else to do, I jumped off the subway at the next stop hoping it would be similar to taking the wrong exit; get off at the next exit and get back on the highway going the correct way.

Subways are not like highways.

When I exited the subway, I was hopeful that the entrance to the correct station would be close by. I stood in the middle of nowhere with no clue where to go and no idea which station to look for. I sat down on the ground outside of the subway, called Blake, and tried to stay calm. As it turned out, the closest subway station was not all that close. It had already been such a long day at work. I was lost, hungry, exhausted, and I just wanted to get home. Blake was able to direct me to the subway station and I was on my way back to Brooklyn in no time.

I stepped off the subway at my stop, happy to finally be back in familiar territory, and began my walk home. On my way, I encountered a homeless man asking for food. I passed him by without thinking much about it and spotted the local Starbucks. An iced chai sounded heavenly after a long day of work and my unexpected excursion in Queens. As I was ordering, the harmless homeless man who had approached me on the street walked into the Starbucks.

“Does anybody have any spare change or food?” He looked longingly around the coffee shop, hoping to make eye contact with a generous soul. I watched, as twenty sets of eyes ignored him and avoided looking up from their computer screens. Nobody answered him, so he repeated his question.

“Excuse me. Does anybody have any spare change or food?” He repeated, and again, went unnoticed. Defeated, the man shuffled out of Starbucks. I expected the coffee shop to return to life before the homeless man had entered. I expected eyes to stay glued to laptops and hushed tones.

Immediately, the Starbucks erupted into waves of criticism. The customers in the seating area immediately took such delight in debasing the homeless man behind his back, that for a moment I couldn’t process exactly what was happening. If this treatment had been given to any other person in the shop, it would have been considered blatant harassment. I stood frozen at the register, listening as one person called him a dirty beggar and another person scoffed at the man’s request for food. I felt humiliated for the man I’d seen who had kindly asked if I had any food to spare, and I felt humiliated to be among a group of people who’d not only denied him that, but then made fun of him with other strangers who did not feed him, as if they all belonged to some secret club.

Horrified, I gave the man at the register my order, who seemed ambivalent to my shock. Instead of ordering my drink, I passed him a premade sandwich, paid, and left.

The homeless man hadn’t traveled far. I spotted him two blocks down walking along the sidewalk. He was still asking to be fed and people were still passing him by. I wondered if they, too, would go home and mock the man with their families at the dinner table.

“Sir?” The man turned around.
I handed him the sandwich and he looked at me with confusion.
“I haven’t been called Sir since I served in the army.” He responded, wearily.
I nodded, and smiled at the man as he gratefully took the sandwich from my hand.
“Thank you young lady. I wish I could repay you.” As the man turned to leave, I called out to him.
“Pay it forward.”

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21 Comments

  1. Danthonia says

    Beautifully done mate. In an uncaring world, such a simple act of kindness means the universe to someone who has lost so much. Your parents have raised a wonderful person. This has really made my day.

  2. Oh, Carley. This story made me cry. Like, I actually cry, right now, real tears, still happening.

    Thank you for doing this. Thank you for reminding people to be, well, PEOPLE. I’ve done this a few times, & it never makes me feel much better; it always hurts.

    I wish I could buy sandwiches for all of them & call all of them sir. or better yet, call them by their real names. A homeless man once told me it had been months since anyone had said his name aloud.

    • Thank YOU for also practicing kindness every day. That is so sad to think about, I had never considered asking his name. I probably should have. I hope you’re back in the city soon so we can catch up again!

  3. My husband and I were discussing this very thing last night – what it would look like if people took the Golden Rule seriously and clothed people who need to be clothed and fed people who need to be fed. We spend a lot of our time on subways too which I’ve found to be life changing in a way: noticing those around us – they’re facial expressions, nervously tapping feet, people who may need something as simple as an umbrella, or just directions like you experienced. Awesome post. It’s good to know there are still some lights in New York City.

    • I think, perhaps it may be because I am not from New York. I am from a town where people look each other in the eye, smile at each other, and say hello whether they know each other or not. Though, I try not to generalize any city or place that I’m in. I’m sure New York with change me in many positive ways, but I hope I always remember to treat everybody with respect. Thanks for reading!

  4. It’s good to be reminded and given the opportunity to act by our principles, isn’t it? This post was a good reminder to me. Thank you.

  5. Your post gave me goosebumps and inspired me to comment. From time to time, I like to do the same thing for people. It is through the kindness of strangers that we truly see the best in people. It is unfortunate that society has a dichotomy of kindness, which we see all too often. The world would be a better place if we were all more focussed on showing kindness that criticism and cruelty.

    • Love what you have to say here, about the dichotomy of kindness. Really something to think about. Sometimes, it feels like we are only kind when it benefits us. We should all practice being kind for the sake of helping other people! Thank you for commenting and reading! xo

  6. What a great story. I think nowadays homeless people are associated with using money to buy drugs and alcohol and that is one of the many reasons people choose to not associate with them. It’s sad that in this case this man was just asking for food and nothing more. People could be a little more gracious, you showed a great act of compassion and kindness. Great post. 🙂

    • I try really hard not to judge people by what they may or may not be associated with, but sometimes even that is really hard, and I totally understand the general bias towards the homeless. That being said, I think there is a huge difference between choosing not to associate with when (which is our right, to choose who we befriend) and choosing to debase them and treat them as if they are not human. It broke my heart. Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad you read my blog post!

  7. Love the story. Totally feel sometimes there is not enough compassion left in the world. I work in emergency medicine so we see a lot sometimes that can definitely leave you jaded. It’s amazing how random events sometimes can have a profound effect on us. It’s also amazing how much small acts like yours can change your own outlook. I know that the times I have helped, or given to someone in need, I have been the most benefited.

    In my eyes those feelings of altruism can’t really be replaced by any object we buy with money.

  8. Must have been such a great feeling… for both of you. Humanity is out there, you just have to look really hard sometimes.

  9. Very nice, Thank you very much for this post. We can never be reminded enough about the kindness of humankind. 🙂

  10. Our humanity is in jeopardy I think, if we cannot see when people need a little help. When Westerners visit Moslem countries, they are usually horrified at the amount of hands that are held out for what we would call tips and they call baksheesh. We don’t like it, but their culture in based on it. They don’t just hold their hands out to us, but to their fellow countrymen too, because the Koran says that everyone should give to those less fortunate.
    The Bible says the same, but most Westerners choose to ignore that bit.
    We have the ‘deserving poor’, but who determines who is deserving and who is not.
    Pretty often it is a case of there but for the grace of God….
    These days it is easy to be unemployed and it is said we are all just 3 pay days from the streets.

  11. What a great post! I try to make it my purpose to do something nice for someone to make their day better. I recently mentioned you in a post about hope, please check it out.:)

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’ve been out of blogging action for a while, but getting caught up on all of the comments I let slip! Looking forward to checking out your blog. xo

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