Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.
- Albert Schweitzer
For many years, I have struggled with how to respond to people standing on medians and corners waiving signs for money. My knee-jerk response is at first sympathy, followed up immediately with a wallop of shame for my own abundance. To talk myself out of doing something generous and to assauge my own guilt, I told myself that these desperate people were scammers or presumed how they might use any spare change I might give. These excuses have never really sat quite right when deep down I knew I was just selfishly ignoring the obvious suffering of others. I consulted with my good friend Lisa, who has virtually single-handedly reformed syringe access legislation in Colorado (to support Lisa’s good work please visit and donate to the www.harmreductionactioncenter.org). Lisa spends a significant amount of time involved with outreach, much of which involves contact with the homeless. She’ll tell you stories that will crack your heart in two. Seeing as I can’t afford to place cash to every outreached hand, I asked Lisa if she thought it would be appropriate to share food – granola bars – or something similarly individually pre-packaged – with those in need. She concurred that from her experience with the community, this gesture would be welcomed and not ridiculed. Wouldn’t you know that just a day later, a rep for Kind Snacks stopped by my work and dropped off a few boxes of granola bars. So technically, I was supposed to share the swag with my co-workers, but those bitches eat enough fucking granola, so I stashed the snacks in my car with the intention of distributing them to those lonely median-dwellers. I’ve given out a few bars to different folks and the snacks are met with delight. Yesterday, I gave a bar to a girl standing in the cold by an exit off-ramp. The next day, at the same exit, in the same bitter cold, was the same girl. I held another bar out the window. She walked up to the car and took it from my hand.
She lit up, “Thank you! Did you give me one of these yesterday?”
“Yes” I smiled back.
She looked at the bar in her hand, “These are good! I was so hungry yesterday and I’m so hungry now. Thank you so much.”
“I’m so glad you like them.” I choked back through a broken heart.
With this small exchange came total confirmation, and then the light turned green.