My 25 year old daughter had just purchased a home in San Diego, near San Diego State University, and I wasn't too fond of the neighborhood at night.
We pulled into a gas station near her home around 8 PM. I was sitting in the passenger seat of her SUV, and noticed an old guy with a white beard taking trash out of the cans on the gas island. He picked out a smoothie container, half full, held it up to the light, and took a swig. He shuddered, and then put the lid on it and popped it in his bag. He repeated the procedure with a bottle of Sprite.
I looked away, embarrassed for him that he didn't care who was watching (although he couldn't see me through the window) and so sad for him and for all of us, that we could let this happen in such an affluent society
. I wanted to give him money, but he hadn't asked and I was afraid it would insult him.
Just then, my daughter poked her head in the car and said, "Mom, can I borrow some money? I'll pay you back".
I knew why.
I handed her a $20 (all I had in my wallet) and she handed it to him. He looked at her and said thanks, then looked down at the bill and tried to hand it back, thinking she'd given the 20 by mistake.
When she refused it, he looked in pleadingly at me, and with tears in my throat I said, " No, it’s for you. Bless you," feeling heartbroken that I couldn’t do more for him, and ashamed for all of us that this beautiful, dignified, 80-something bearded man was reduced to eating from a gas station trash bin.
I hope the money was a blessing for him. His blessing to my daughter and me-- the opportunity to give from our hearts and to be grateful for all we have-- was without price.