The other day I donated $5 to a beggar on the corner sitting in a wheelchair on my way to get juice. After we made the kind of eye contact that signified mutual recognition of another conscious person, I gave him five dollars. His smile and nod suggested he was so appreciative. It felt too soon to continue walking away. So I asked him what he was going to buy with the money. He said "food." I asked him where and he said McDonalds. I realized there was no McDonalds anywhere near there, In fact, the nearest one was in the Bayview neighborhood five miles away where I worked.
I quickly realized this wasn’t a typical person sitting in their wheelchair on the street corner begging for money. I realized that this man was here for a specific purpose. This was his job. He had a badge and a newspaper. He told me he had been a homeless veteran until recently when he applied for this government program where he received housing and a job selling newspapers.
After further inquiry I learned he was living in a brand new senior living center for a super subsidized rate bunked with other homeless veterans. In the real estate world this is called social housing. Fun fact, I had just learned about how to cash flow in California by tapping into government subsidies for people in populations like his at my three day real estate investing symposium in L.A. I had just attended with the help of our last guest Whitney Chaffin.
Our conversation ended abruptly because he wasn’t going to make his bus. He saw it stopping and started wheeling towards it as fast as he could. I could see he wasn’t going to make it. The door was closing and the bus was starting to shift gears and screech forward. Something in me sprang to action. I ran very quickly forward the 10 yards we had to go and stopped the driver for the man. The man turned and said God Bless!
It was a wonderful feeling to step out of my preconceived ideas and the culture of passivity towards the homeless and to go out of my way and be blessed with the chance to understand and help someone.
The extra funny thing is that I made a promise to a student that day that I would do something good with a dollar she gave me for helping her with her schoolwork today. So this joke in class turned into a promise to give, which turned into an intentional act of kindness, which yielded a giant blessing I got to experience.
One thing stood out to me about what this man said. He said people aren’t looking for your money they are looking for help.
There is always something you can do to help without giving them money. Give them socks and gloves and a blanket. Buy them a tent. Be a human helping other humans. Now I walk by the homeless with a new lens.
Think about how you could engage with something from your every day in a more meaningful way to learn, grow, and shift in your perspective.