I looked around me last night after I heard about the mom and daughter who would be sleeping in their car and I simply couldn’t bring myself to let it lie. I posted about their case everywhere I could, Twittered about it again and again, and yet, something nagged at me. This wasn’t a sob story about a faceless someone or other on the other side of the country. This was a tragedy happening in my back yard.
We’re not rolling in cash by any stretch of the imagination. Like everyone else we’re thinking twice about spending anything. But still, we have heat, and food, and warm cozy beds. My kids have clean clothes and whatever food they want to eat, or not eat as the case may be. We’re not hurting.
I sat on my plush couch and thought that maybe I should do something to help. I considered sending a Paypal donation, my usual M.O. when I hear about a story that tugs my heart strings, but my conscience nagged at me. These two women were sitting in their car in the parking lot of a Denny’s one town over. A Paypal donation would take days to get to them, I could get into my car and deliver my donation in person in less than ten minutes.
It might come as a surprise to learn that I’m a shy person. I like Internet anonymity. I like talking to people from the safety of my couch. I’m really not good at going out into the world and meeting people, especially when it entails possibly walking into an emotional or stressful situation. So, yes, driving money over was the right thing to do, but it was most definitely not the easiest.
But I also couldn’t see myself climbing into my bed and snuggling down under my two down comforters knowing that I didn’t even try to help. So I shot the mom an email, rationalizing that if she didn’t reply I was off the hook. I wasn’t exactly going to go drive around town in the hopes of spotting them sleeping in their car.
She wrote back right away and directly asked for help. Now, I know how hard it is to ask for help. I know what kind of guts it must have taken to type those words. I can only imagine what it cost her pride to do so and how her love for her child must have motivated her. In the face of that, how could I not have gone out?
I met them briefly in the parking lot of the motel and gave them some cash and a tiny bit of food. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t stick around. I wished them luck and a happier new year and then I got back into my car and drove away. I didn’t think that my presence would be helpful. They needed money, not a gawker. It was late, they were tired, and I think I assumed that they would rather hurry up and get a room rather than stand around talking to a total stranger.
I will admit, because I’m nothing if not always honest with you people, I did enjoy the feeling of being the hero, running out to rescue the needy. I might have maybe played a few (rather embarrassing ) scenarios in my head where maybe they would gush about me on their blog and I would score tons of hits because of my heroic action. ahem. And yes, maybe I was a tad disappointed when they kept referring to me as a nameless “generous donor,” even on the two news stories that ran tonight. And maybe if I had stuck around for a bit I wouldn’t have been so nameless today. But I keep reminding myself that true charity is best when it is anonymous, and that I was doing this for them, not me, and that really, I’m glad that I remained the anonymous donor, because this story is again about them, not me, and they should get all the attention. And I can just rest easy knowing that I did the right thing because it was the right thing to do and for no other reason at all.
And so the year ends, with me no more famous than ever before, but way more at peace with myself, knowing that I can count on myself to have the courage to do the right thing for the right reason when it really counts.
Happy New Year everyone. May 2009 be the year when all your dreams come true.
Original It’s my life… post.