Should've Given Them Ten, Or Better Yet, A Name
by August Spencer
So, right, you get accosted, right, by someone on the street down on their luck, but remarkably articulate, always somehow remarkably articulate. They’ve got a religious angle and a story. The story is always tear jerking and the religious angle is always a prayer. The good ones get you to sit down and pray with them, to then lead into the story. If they’re really good, they finish the story, compliment your input, and then, and ONLY then, ask for some money.
Oh, but the BEST ones, oh yeah, the best ones have just gotten a job, right. And they’re working at Hardy’s at the moment, but the first paycheck hasn’t come in yet, y’know, because they only just started and all, but the reason they just started is thanks to a DSS program that has them on track to get custody of their daughter back (she was staying with their sister, who kept bringing guys around constantly, which I personally know causes instability and insecurity for young children, so they finally called DSS to make sure their daughter was in a more stable situation, thus putting them in a program to secure a job and get on track to getting their daughter again. Why they didn’t have their daughter living with them in the first place, I didn’t ask, that’s not the story), and while their daughter is with their mother, she (the grandmother) wants them to help out how they can, and they want to help out how they can, and so a few small essentials like Captain Crunch and Oodles of Noodles are all they really need to help till the first check comes in.
So you sit through the whole story because you like to listen to people's lives, and now you’re at the inevitable end, and are guilted into giving them something.
No, hold on, you knew you were giving them something to begin with, that’s why you sat down. Admittedly, you initially thought they might just genuinely want a prayer, and then you remembered you’re somehow still quite naive sometimes when it comes down to it, but naive in a great, arguably charitable way that honestly you aren’t really complaining about and ultimately probably helps you morally. To clarify, you’re dense and ignorantly charitable sometimes. This is a stance to take on good deeds that separates you from consciously being good, which is decidedly Letterman-esque from the bits of Letterman you’ve seen.
Christ. Not even giving money to a homeless person is about the homeless person. It’s a Rube Goldberg machine crafted to make self-comparisons to the former king of late night, who you never even watched. Carson rolls confused in his grave.
You ask them if five dollars is good, and tell them you’re gonna step off to get your coffee and, inexorably, some change, and come right back. Pay attention to the shirt, it looks like a drape. This shirt is bound to return.
Your shirt keeps its word. “God bless you”s are had. You gave a person five dollars. Who cares what they said. The moment, the actual moment, comes down to you wanting to be charitable. Any thoughts of “But what will they do after they have your money?” are selfish. If you’re actually donating something, it isn’t yours at that point.
Which is what you know and did. So why do you somehow feel the word “guilt”?
Did you do it to write about.
Did you do a “good thing” just to write about it.
Do you only do things just to write about them.
...no. The fuck, no, you don’t. You’ve thought about it, a lot, and you know that you don’t. You live because you enjoy living, and you’re getting better at trying to be helpful. You happened to be on the way to write, and an event happened along the way. Hell, you’re always on your way to write. Writing is a byproduct of living. Living is where the joy and meaning is, writing exists to help to share it.
You tell them to stay straight and take care and you mean it.
You tell yourself you’ve done a good deed, and objectively, you have, but with what intention?
To get someone’s daughter a meal they otherwise could not afford? Or to make you feel pleased with yourself on your way to your morning coffee? Why does this matter? To do the Virtuous thing because of the end result of feeling good about yourself, or to do the Virtuous thing for the sake of itself, which, in turn, brings you joy for doing a Virtuous thing for Virtue’s sake. Why does any of this matter? What’s the Truth here?
The Truth, of course, now obvious in retrospect and reflection, is that you should’ve given them a ten, or, better yet, a name.
August Spencer is a southern optimist, fighter of nihilism. Dry as veins post-Andromeda Strain, serious as a heart attack but preceded by butterflies in the stomach. Democrat, but with intentions to re-write the Aeneid with Jill Stein as the titular Pious Aeneas. Also he loves you.