‘I hope you pay it forward’

Feed me, Seymour. Feed me all night long ...

Feed me, Seymour. Feed me all night long ...

That’s the piggy bank that sits on my desk at work. And, yes, it’s got change in it. I started putting change in it right around the time Brandon moved to West Virginia. (Which, if you’re playing along at home, that was FIVE months ago. I can’t even believe that.) The piggy bank is there when I’m in dire need of having a Snickers bar (which doesn’t happen all that much) or I’m dying from caffeine low and I want a diet Coke or Coke Zero. My office isn’t a Pepsi product office. Boo. If I want diet Dew, it’s to the CVS for me.

The pig doesn’t have a name, which is odd. Everything has a name — or six — when you’re dealing with me. But I’ve never come up with the perfect name for this $1, purple piggy bank I got at Target the week I got divorced.

The pig is heavy. There’s probably several dollars worth of change in it. I’ve been dipping into it because it’s money to be used, right? I’ve saved it, I can use it. Instead of using it for, say, something actually healthful (like fruit or vegetables) I’ll eat a bag of Sun Chips and call it a draw.

When we were at the grocery store last night, I decided for dinner, I really just wanted a pot pie. (Insert gratuitous West Virginia joke here). Maybe it was because I was mentally exhausted from a busy day at work, or maybe because I’m a little more stressed out than usual, but I wanted the comfort of something I could put in the microwave for five minutes and have everything I could want.

The pot pie was 75 cents. That much goodness for less than a dollar. It’s totally clear to me why some of the less fortunate people in the United States are obese when you consider that buying a bag of salad, or some chicken breasts, or fish or fresh fruit would cost you several times that. It’s depressing. I used to lament about it in Charleston at work when I’d go to the grocery store and spend $30 on just fruit and vegetables sometimes.

Today on the way into work, a guy sitting on the Metro looked at me and said, “I need a quarter so I can buy something to eat.” Only a quarter seemed to be a reasonable request. I opened up my bag, took out a quarter and handed it to him.

Then he asked for more.

I know. It was my fault for opening up the door in the first place.

So, I took out a dollar. And I handed it to him.

He looked at me and said, “You’re a kind person. You have a good heart.”

I said, “I hope you pay it forward.”

Admittedly, I’ve never seen the movie “Pay It Forward,” but from what I gather, it’s that people go around doing good things for others and telling them to go do something nice for someone else.

Now, will this guy do something nice for someone today? Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll never see the guy again, likely.

Am I just a sucker?

Probably. You’re dealing with a girl who was raised in a small town of 6,000 people where you just did things like that. If someone needed a dollar, you gave them a dollar. You didn’t ask why. When I lived on Everybody’s East End in Charleston, I’d routinely give the homeless guy who slept on my apartment building’s doorstep a bagel or an English muffin on my way out the door.

Will this eventually stop?

Probably. People tell me that the longer you live somewhere like here, the more you become desensitized to all of it around you. Especially when you consider all of the available resources available for those in need in D.C., and when you consider that those resources go largely unused for the sake of shaking a change cup at you on your way into Cosi.

Maybe it’s my way of cheating Karma — thinking that all of the goodwill I try to spread will SOMEHOW find its way back to me. In a lot of ways, it really has already. But I do keep waiting for that incredibly rich uncle nobody knew we had to die and leave me a few million. 🙂

The overriding lesson? I guess it doesn’t kill you to be nice. But it can.

(I get really introspective on Friday afternoons when I’ve already blown through my diet Dew ration and I’m drinking cranberry-apple tea we had in the office kitchen.)


4 Responses to “‘I hope you pay it forward’”

  1. August 1, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Stop talking/giving money to random people!!!! This isn’t WV. DTA, baby! Don’t Trust Anyone!

  2. 2 Paige
    August 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    That $1.25 could’ve bought you another diet Dew…

  3. August 14, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    after watching me give a buck to some guy who i guess lived around my brother’s neighborhood not far from union station, my brother admonished me to never whip out my wallet in front of panhandler. he said i was lucky he didn’t snatch it from me. i keep change in my pocket for this kind of thing now. be safe.

  4. August 14, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    That’s the thing … As one friend put it, “The West Virginia heart has to learn how to deal with the Washington reality.”

    Very sage.

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