This I Believe

Crystal - Orange, Virginia
Entered on December 6, 2006

A Hearty Heart

“Don’t give him any money!” my friend protested.

“He needs it; why not?” I replied.

There I sat in traffic at a red light, pondering what I‘d seen. I was beginning to tear up. It was a sultry summer afternoon in the city. I could see the heat waves rising from the pavement’s black surface. There in the median, sauntered a ragged man with a pathetic sign. It simply said, “Please help, need food.” He was a man that looked to be in his early fifties, clad with torn and dingy clothing which looked as if it’d seen as many years as he had. I thought to myself, how could my friend be so cold-hearted? My friend’s reasoning for his above dialogue was simply that the guy would just buy alcohol or crack with any money I gave him. But how could he be certain? Homeless people don’t choose to be homeless. They don’t choose to degrade and exploit themselves by begging for food and money.

In high school, I remember our class had a guest speaker come in to inform us about homeless people. She barraged us with depressing statistics on the status of the homeless. The majority of homeless people are war veterans, the mentally ill/retarded, the disabled, and there are a few addicts also. Basically, people that are shunned by society and can’t get jobs because of these inevitable traits are homeless. With this horrible thought in mind, why not throw the homeless man a few bucks? It’s merely a few dollars I otherwise would’ve wasted on something unnecessary.

I find that there’s a difference in merely having compassion and acting upon compassion. I‘ve discovered that I possess both. I still regret not giving the homeless man money. I was too busy thinking about what my friend had said and too caught up with my own questions to react in time. The light had turned green. On the other hand, there have been several instances when I’ve given homeless people money and a warm smile.

If I see someone or something suffering mentally or physically, I want to help; that’s what compassion is. I believe I should live my life with compassion because it’s the right thing to do. I watch my family in the act and think to myself: I want to do that. I want to be kind and caring. I’ve been in situations where I was in pain and someone was compassionate towards me; the feeling was amazing. In itself, an act of kindness can lift away that pain and make you smile.

My friend made me realize my strong belief in empathy. He challenged my belief and made me step back and examine my own ideals. It’s an awesome feeling to know I’m able to aid someone or something and temporarily ease, if not rid them of, their mental or physical pain and suffering.