RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
BY PAUL GOEBEL

 

I have a story to tell. Actually, it is a collection of a lot of little stories, or it can be seen more accurately as an ongoing story. I don't know if this is what you are looking for, but I thought you might be interested. To some it may appear ordinary, but to me it is extraordinary.

I am a messenger for a law firm in downtown San Diego. My job requires that I deliver and pick up documents, letters, and whatnot to and from various offices all over downtown and throughout the San Diego area. I also file papers in the local court buildings located on Broadway Ave., the heart of downtown where a lot of action takes place. As a result, I often find myself strolling down this street, walking amongst men and women in suits, average Joe citizens, and the many homeless people on the streets asking for change.

I realize that in a big city such as San Diego, the homeless vagrants are accepted as commonplace and things have a way of continuing as business as usual. People just seem to get used to strangers asking them for change on every block, and people have learned to keep walking by without even a shrug of a shoulder. I am not saying people are cold. Often I see donations of change. On the contrary, it is hard for a person to know what to do. It is difficult for me. When you don't have much money yourself, it is hard to give to every person you see. And when you decide you can spare the change, it appears as simply a random act of kindness. Why does this homeless person get this now when I said "no" to seven others this morning? It can be quite a dilemma.

For me it is a particular dilemma because of my view of society. I have just graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz last spring and spent my four years there studying society problems and paradoxes. I view what I see downtown as a phenomenon. I walk through the biggest law firms in town, listen to lawyers in elevators; see the fancy cars, the fancy restaurants, and the Italian suits. But, I also see hunger and poverty at the same time. I hear myself thinking, one lunch between executives is worth fifty hamburgers for those on the streets. The gap between the two worlds, I guess, can be startling.

When I am able, I lend a hand. And it is usually the common people who do lend a hand to those struggling on the streets. On my way out of a bank, I stopped by McDonalds to buy a cheeseburger because I saw a hungry man on the street. I gave it to him and realized that by doing so, it did not hurt me one bit. Maybe somewhere down the line I would pass up that soda pop or bag of cookies. One time, I did not have change, but I had a pack of gum, so I gave the homeless man a piece of gum. I have taken my extra clothes to the office, so when I go downtown I can take some with me and distribute them to those in need.

But this is not why I am writing to you. Sometimes you witness one small event and it makes such a big impact on you. It has the tendency to have you rethink things all over again. This happened to me one day, downtown on Broadway Ave. After a while you begin to recognize the homeless people on the streets. They are there every day, usually in the same place. There was one man in particular that I remember. He is a short man, with one leg, who hobbles around on crutches shaking a cup for change. I happened to be walking by him at the moment when a man put a dollar bill in his cup. It was ironic because although he only received a dollar (which to some people is nothing at all), the look on his face made it look like he just won the lottery or found a jackpot of gold. The excitement that radiated in his face brought him to the point of praying to God, thanking him for such fortune. Doesn't that make you wonder about the value of money in our society? To one person a dollar can mean food for the day or four hours where they won't have to think about hunger pain, but to others thirty dollars can represent a lunch for two people at a nice restaurant.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Paul. You are right, we as individuals can not help everyone, but if each and every one of us performed one random act of kindness on a daily basis, just think how we could change the World!


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