Saturday, August 18, 2012
The cat writhed blissfully around on its back while the man wiggled his fingers over its belly. The cat was a lovely tortoiseshell, sleek and healthy. The man wore tattered black jeans and a stained, ripped jacket. His black hair hung lankly against his grimy face and tangled with the stubble of his beard. They sat next to a doorway on the sidewalk on pieces of cardboard, their possessions next to them, and a jar with a few dollars in it standing hopefully by.
Knowing that walking around Old Pasadena would provide me many opportunities to give to homeless people, I had planned my giving beforehand. Based on my reflections about such alms, I had decided to give to the first person who asked, or the first person who caught my eye.
Something about this man's moment of quiet joy with his pet moved me. I pulled out the $2.00 and dropped it into his jar, wishing him a good evening.
I had $10 in the other pocket as well. But no one else came by and asked me and we didn't walk around much after dinner (since we had a cage full of rats waiting in the car). J wanted to go to Vroman's Bookstore, one of her favorites. Getting out of the car, I realized that I hadn't used the other gift. I didn't think I was likely to find someone in obvious need browsing the shelves without being pretty intrusive. I had an impulse.
"Here, honey," I said, pulling out the bill. "This is my gift for today. Why don't you take it?" I handed it over to my husband. I knew that he was going through Vromans' and out to the used sci fi bookstore across the street, a store so grubby and yucky that the girls and I refuse to set foot back inside. "Be sure to buy some books."
Often, S will browse but not ever buy anything for himself. Later, he showed up at the cafe where the girls and I were sipping hot cocoa. "I got two books," he said. "And your money was all the cash I had on me, so it worked out just right."
Before we left, I scrubbed the kitchen floor. It took almost 45 minutes of hard work to sweep it and scrub it well.