Saturday, January 7, 2012
Kindness in the City
Today was an exercise in simply being aware of opportunities to be kind that are all around us. My wife and I were going into Philadelphia to see a show, so I figured there would be lots of people around and some kindness opportunities were likely to appear if I stayed present to them. And that's exactly what I found.
As we left the parking garage and began the several block walk to the Academy of Music I noticed a woman looking confused and lost. She was pulling out her tickets and kept looking at the street signs trying to figure something out. As we approached her I asked if she needed help. She couldn't figure out where the Merriam Theatre was and I was easily able to point her in the right direction. It wasn't a big deal, but plenty of other people also probably saw her confused expression and didn't bother to offer help. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have in the past either.
Minutes later, still not having arrived at our destination, a shabbily dressed man approached us selling some kind of newspaper for a dollar, saying that the money went to support the homeless. In the past, I would have put my head down and ignored him. Today, I told him that I didn't want the newspaper but would gladly give him a dollar to support the homeless. He seemed appreciative as we engaged in a brief conversation.
It seems to me that beggars and other solicitors present an interesting dilemma as it relates to kindness. I can always question whether I'm helping or enabling, I can wonder whether they're legitimate or a scam, and I can get involved in the endless debate over whether I should have given $5 or $10 or much more, instead of a simple buck. I don't honestly know the best way to think about it, and maybe over the course of this year I'll form some logical, consistent approach. In the meantime, though, I'd rather assume that people are legitimate, and at least approach them with an attitude of kindness rather than seeing them as an intrusion in my world. I figure that's at least a good start.