“I’m going to need to start making money, Mom. I’m a little low.”
I looked at my daughter sideways. She never spends money. She will go hungry and wait for me to feed her at home rather than buy herself lunch. I have caught her with a bag of chips, on occasion. And she does rack up the library fines. But not enough to burn through a large stash of cash.
“Where’s it all going?”
She hesitated. “It’s the people on the corner.”
This would be the corner where she gets off the bus on her way home from school. There is always someone there, someone missing a few teeth maybe, dressed poorly – or with exceptionally nice shoes and no socks. Someone holding a sign. “Homeless. Anything helps.”
“The woman there now is really nice, Mom.”
I want to counter her naivete. I started to tell her that they may be nice, but so many are there because they don’t want to work, because they’d rather drink or take drugs. That giving money to them only exacerbates their problems, allows them to wallow in a sub-civilized existence. That we can help them more by giving our money to food banks and shelters and drug addiction programs. That, in fact, some of them might take advantage of her. That whatever story they give her about their past is probably not true. I am afraid for her sometimes, because lately she wants to believe the best of everyone. Not unlike my younger self.
Yesterday, the woman on the corner gave her flowers.
Father Tony, in one of the last homilies he gave before he retired, implored us to find anything, anything we can do to right the injustices we see in the world. And I am caught up in paralysis – where is the best place for me to put my extra resources? How much am I willing to part with, when I want new clothes and a haircut and organic food and a trip across the country? How do I feel about people who try to con me to get me to give them my cash? Why is it such a big decision every time I drive by someone with their hand holding a sign and a blank, tired look in their eye.
My daughter has decided she has plenty, and that one dollar a day to someone in need is her contribution. One dollar to someone who looks her in the eye and says “Thank you.” One dollar just because someone asks, not because their need is greater. Not because they deserve it. One dollar between two people is not so much to establish a relationship growing out of the sort of kindness that is clothed in dignity. To my daugher that is worth more than clothes, makeup, movies and concerts with friends. She who once cried because she thought that God’s call to give to the poor meant giving up all she had, has now realized that she has enough. More than enough. And the woman on the corner, overcome with wonder, perhaps, by the girl who keeps coming back to give without question, remembered her and gave her flowers.