So the other day I was on my way home from the E.R. I was sitting on the subway trying to snooze a bit. There is a section of my ride where we skip a bunch of stops, so there is about 10 minutes of no stopping. It is usually during this time that the people who ask for money do their little spiel where they ask for food or money.
Well, the guy on our train decided to stop right in front of me and he, like most of them, asked for food or money. I sort of ignored him because I was trying to sleep. But, as usually happens I started thinking. I remembered that I had a peanut butter and jam sandwich that I hadn't eaten at the hospital and I considered giving it to him. My thinking went something like this - I'm going to go home and throw this sandwich away and if I don't attempt to give it to this guy then I'll feel bad. I have to tell you about this sandwich. I usually only have a half a sandwich (not much for a man to eat). And then I wrap it in a paper towel (my brain thinks this helps keep the bread from drying out), but the jam usually leaks out onto it so it looks like my sandwich is bleeding whatever color jam I use (this particular time it was boysenberry purple). So, then I considered not giving it to him. But, remember I said I had started thinking. So I pulled out my sandwich and held it out for this guy. Actually I have to say I also offered him my 100 calorie package of Lorna Doone cookies (that was the sacrifice because I quite like those cookies). Just guess what he did.
If you're like me you just guessed wrong. I figured the guy would tell me no, because even though he asked for food or money, what he really wanted was money. What happened is that the guy initally said no thanks, but then I think he realized that a lot of the people on the train were looking at him. So, first he rejected my cookies. What kind of crazy passes up Lorna Doone cookies? But, he walked over and took my sandwich that looked like it was bleeding purple. And then of course I kept thinking. This time my thinking went something like this - "I wonder what this guy is going to do with my sandwich?"
He walked back over to the doorway where he had been standing. I kept slyly eyeing him because, of course, I was quite curious if he would actually eat the sandwich. After a couple minutes he opened up the sandwich, unwrapped the paper towel and pulled the whole wheat bread apart and smelled the sandwich. He then put the sandwich back together and wrapped it up in the paper towel and put it back into the baggie. I thought "hmm if you were really hungry I'd think you'd dig right in with that toothless mouth of yours". Maybe it was the wheat bread, maybe it was the kind of jam, or maybe I used the wrong kind of peanut butter - whatever it was he didn't seem terribly interested in my sandwich. But my entertainment and curiosity continued.
We finally got the the 125th St and this fellow had made another pass through the train car, so he was at the other end of the car when we stopped. I thought "dang it! now I won't know what he does with the sandwich", and I even considered getting off the train just so I could watch him (but it had already been a 14 hour day for me and I was tired). Imagine my surprise when I saw this fellow bounding down the train platform in my direction. There just happened to be a garbage can right in front of me where the train door had opened. This fellow bounding along the platform happily tossed my peanut butter sandwich into the garbage can. So what was my thought then? Well, it went something like this - "At least he threw it in the garbage can and not on the ground." And then I thought about the fact that I could sleep well tonight knowing I had tried to help someone and didn't just toss the sandwich into my own garbage. And really I was sort of glad to know what the fellow had actually done with the sandwich.
I never claimed to be saintly, so if you're disappointed at my lack of saintly thoughts - I'm sorry. I'll try harder next time.
And just for your information, there are signs in the subway that tell riders to not give people money. There are also programs for homeless and there are even social workers that purely work the subways (I have a social worker friend who explained that to me).