Archive | February, 2015

Charity on the Subway – Who Blessed Who?

Several weeks ago, I rode the morning subway to Los Angeles to attend a deposition. An older man, bent over, lean, unbathed, walked through the subway car, hat in hand, begging. Everyone ignored him and turned from him. I tossed a handful of change into his hat.

He said, “God bless you.”

Without thinking, I said, “I hope he does.”bigstock-Homeless-Man-Thinking-52716556

My stop came and I exited the subway. I did not know which direction to go to get to the proper exit. I was walking to the stairs and saw the man walking ahead of me. I asked him for directions.

He articulately described how I could get to where I was going, then he said, “But you got off one exit early — reboard the train and go to the next stop. It will be much easier.”

I said, “Thank you for blessing me.”

He smiled and said, “It’s not me who blesses. I just provide the opportunity for receiving a blessing.”

Since that morning I have thought often about the lesson the man taught me. As I spend my overworked life concentrating on accumulating education, money, things, status, power, I miss the opportunities to add meaning to my life, not because I lack the desire, but because my focus confuses me as to what is really important.

No one paid attention to him. No one cared for him, and yet in a moment, he shared with me something truly important to me. I suspect that he would have given me directions regardless of whether I put money in his hat or not. The directions did not matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but imagine the personal loss I would have suffered had I not spoken with someone who everyone else ignored. He taught me that sometimes charity’s greatest gift is to the giver, not the recipient. I had an experience with a truly noble spirit who many thought of as having little worth. I recognize him as having shared with me, the blessing of perspective.

How many opportunities do we miss to live because we are concentrating only on making a living. At the end of the day, it will be the experiences of meaning that have shaped us and made us what we will become that matter the most – it will be the blessings we receive for caring for others that will matter most to us, and those who fondly will remember us.