ParentClick Ventura

The Power of Giving


When I was just out of college, I managed to get a job interview at a magazine I was dying to work for. On the day of my interview, I found myself frantically circling busy city blocks for a parking space. I finally found one two blocks away from my destination, hopped out of my car and began to feed coins into my parking meter. At that moment, a homeless man approached me. He wore a long, dark colored coat and towered above me. He had a full beard and shaggy, matted hair. He was visibly dirty and he had his hand out. I had to make a quick decision. I decided on good karma and good terms. I needed the karma for my interview and I wanted to be on good terms with this terrifying looking man. After all, I was going to be walking back to my car soon and possibly in the dark. I emptied the scant contents of what remained in my change purse into the homeless man’s hand and ran off to my meeting.

My interview ran over the time I had put in my parking meter. As I walked back to my car with blisters forming on the back of my heels thanks to my new interview shoes, I hoped more than ever that I had gotten the job because now I was going to have an expensive parking ticket to pay. I knew the neighborhood well enough to know that I would not get away with an expired meter. To my surprise, when I got to my car there was still time on my meter. “What happened?” I wondered. My confusion must have been obvious because a man stepped out from the newsstand a car length away and said, “That homeless guy put money in your meter a couple of times.” I had been so focused on my interview, I had almost forgotten about the homeless man. I was stunned. A homeless man—a man who could not afford a roof over his head—had given me what added up to more money than I had given him.

I never saw the homeless man again. He had moved on by the time I got back to my car. He must not have been interested in my thanks. Even today, I remain stunned by the homeless man’s gesture and kindness. Although I would like to have been able to say thank you, I sense that putting that money in my meter and doing something for someone else was reward enough for him.

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else,” by Booker T. Washington is one of my favorite quotes. I like to believe that the homeless man felt “lifted up” by lifting me up all those years ago. That homeless man taught me that giving is power. Giving can change your purpose, your sense of your position in the world, and how you feel about yourself. Giving can lead to a positive domino effect. Everyone—even a homeless man, even a harried and overworked parent, even a child—has the ability to give in some way and will be better off for having done so.

By the way, the karma worked. I got the job. And though he may not know it, the homeless man and I remain on the best of terms. The benefits of the quick decision I made all those years ago far surpassed anything I could have imagined.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

November 2, 2014

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