Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cider

We popped into a wine store, on Thanksgiving Monday, a day when most such stores are closed. Joe picked out a couple of bottles of wine and, as we were checking out, we were offered a large bottle of cider, with cinnamon flavouring, which was on special. Even though Joe's not a cider drinker, we picked it up, anticipating that we may have use for it over the upcoming holidays.

About a block away, a fellow of maybe 40 was sitting on the street with a sign asking for money. It was a terrifically honest sign saying that he wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with a bottle of wine or a case of beer. After quickly conferring with Joe, I approached him and said, "What about, instead of money, we just gave you a bottle of cider."

"Are you for real?" he said, his voice indicating that people don't always treat him with the honestly he was displaying.

I told him I was and as I speaking, Joe pulled out the bottle. It was a fair sized bottle, larger than the wine bottles which we'd also purchased.

He broke into a grin and said, "Well I'll be giving thanks for you guys today, that's for sure."

We wished him well, and he returned the sentiments.

It was a pleasant interlude in our walk home.

For only a few seconds.

A husband and wife team sped up to us and started laying into us about what we had just done. We, apparently, were horrible people feeding his addiction. We were enabling him and as a direct result of our behaviour he would stay on the street. I asked if they were addiction counsellors and they said they weren't but that 'everyone knew that.' I told them that I didn't know why he was on the street, I didn't know if he was an alcoholic or if he had any addiction, I was just moved to give him what he asked for.

It didn't feel wrong when I did it. And as I thought about it, I thought that the excuse the cider gave us to have a brief bit of social interaction was right in line with the spirit of the holidays.

They told me, in no uncertain terms, that they never give to 'beggers' on the street and that they felt it their duty to tell me not to either. I told them that I was going to stay resolutely in the spirit of 'Thanksgiving' and that I was thankful that I lived in a country where they had free speech and that I could freely choose to ignore what they said.

I don't know if what I did was right or wrong.

But I hope, whatever else, he, the man on the street, had a great Thanksgiving.

13 comments:

theknapper said...

I think the heart to heart connection is what mattered...You treated him with respect, something he may not often experience on the street. I get those folks believed they were doing right.Makes me nervous when people believe they have the answer. I doubt very much that your gesture put this fellow in a more precarious situation.

Anonymous said...

There's more value in treating a human being as a human being than according to a formula, even if it's an excellent formula. I think that particular formula can be useful, but I'm not sure it's excellent; I'm quite sure that respect and loving-kindness are excellent.

I hope the cider was, too.

Ettina said...

I believe in treating homeless people as people who can decide for themselves what they want or need. How arrogant to assume we know better than someone else what they should be getting?

Do some homeless people have addictions, and beg to pay for their addictions? Sure. But they won't recover just because some people refuse to give them money. They'll only recover when *they* chose to work on recovery. You can't force it upon them.

And how many people drink for Thanksgiving without being alcoholic? Aren't homeless people allowed to have fun, and celebrate the holidays? Even if you're homeless, your life shouldn't revolve 100% around meeting basic needs. That's a miserable way to live.

Anonymous said...

I believe that adults do not generally have the right to "correct" the behaviour of other adults (unless they are in a position of authority of some sort). Oh - I forgot - "walkies" have authority over the way "wheelies" live. Pardon my oversight!

Ettina said...

OK, this got me fired up enough to write a post about it.

http://abnormaldiversity.blogspot.ca/2015/10/why-i-give-money-to-beggars.html

Jan Goldfield and Donna Morse said...

I wonder if the interlopers would have spoken to you the same way if you were just two guys walking down the street. Did they feel that you needed to know the wrongdoing you committed because you really didn't know any better. People who use wheelchairs/power chairs are lacking in knowledge, you know, and need to be taught normal ordinary things that everybody else already knows. And they were just the teachers you needed. - sarcasm font.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

More importantly, did these people do something better than what you did? Did they treat the man on the street with respect? Did they realize he had needs, and offer to help him with those?

Did they find him a safe shelter, job training, and a good Thanksgiving dinner?

Did they DO anything?

Did they even remember the story of the Good Samaritan?

You and Joe treating this man as a human capable of making his own decisions - and helping because you could - may build his self-esteem to the point where he might take better care of himself.

The human connection is so important. If everyone treats you like garbage, it's going to be hard to remember that you are not.

clairesmum said...

I think you and Joe demonstrated the true spirit of Thanksgiving - giving thanks for being alive and sharing what you have with the people around you.
the first Thanksgiving (in Plymouth Colony) was a feast shared by colonists and Native Americans to give thanks for the harvest that would help sustain them in the winter to come (the previous winter had wiped out much of the colony, partly due to hunger) and to share food and drink and celebration among the two groups.
hope you and Joe enjoyed your day.

Anonymous said...

The story of every homeless person on the street is different. Nobody has the right to judge someone like this. These people lacked empathy. I am glad you interacted with the man like one human being to another.

I am grateful that people like you exist.

Julia

clairesmum said...

I think you and Joe demonstrated the true spirit of Thanksgiving - giving thanks for being alive and sharing what you have with the people around you.
the first Thanksgiving (in Plymouth Colony) was a feast shared by colonists and Native Americans to give thanks for the harvest that would help sustain them in the winter to come (the previous winter had wiped out much of the colony, partly due to hunger) and to share food and drink and celebration among the two groups.
hope you and Joe enjoyed your day.

Ron Arnold said...

There is a vast difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. I find the tell-tale sign of the latter to be imposing itself on others, whereas the former is content to just set an example. Righteous gift to the dude on the street Dave. =)

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to say how grateful I am for your blog, Dave. Sharing your cider was the perfect thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Dave. First of all you think it is ok for a fellow to jaywalk, because abled bodied people do (a past post). Neither is right - able or not - breaking the law. Then you give alcohol directly to one who wants it. Not a drink to toast the day but a whole large bottle. (Perhaps some crack for someone who wants it? Or maybe a gun for someone who wants to shoot something?) You justifying your "good will" is equally as bad as the others who justified their views. Granted, he is an adult and should be able to make his own decisions. Giving money at least gives him a choice. Who knows what he would have done? You actually took away his choice.