As I walked around today, I thought about the grocery gift card in my pocket. I was going to hold off on giving it, because I had a gift planned for this afternoon. Then I thought about what someone (I think HissyStitch) said, that holding back a second gift is an act of scarcity. So I decided if I saw someone to give it to, I would. And a short while later, I came across a man who plays a recorder on the street. Like many here, he's an unusual character (then again, so am I). He looks a bit like Dumbledore (the Richard Harris version) - tall and thin, with a long white beard - and he has a small terrier-sized dog he calls "Doggy." I don't know where he lives, but he paddles into town in an old orange canoe, parks it on the "locals" dock and goes...wherever he's busking. He's very quiet and doesn't seem terribly interested in people. Anyway, I gave him the card (his cap, on the sidewalk, only had a few coins in it), and though he didn't say much, he looked at me with such warmth that it took me aback. We exchanged a few sentences about the weather, and I walked away. I think he's used to being (or feeling) invisible.
Then a man stopped me and explained he was looking for work - actually told me how hard he's been looking - and asked if I could help him out. I apologized and said I didn't have anything on me, and he became enormously apologetic "Sorry to bother you," etc. I said, it's okay, you're not bothering me. If I did have something, I'd give it to you, and if I see you again and I can help you out, I will. He kept apologizing, and I reiterated you're not a bother. I think that was probably more important to him than any money (well, maybe equally important).
The next bit is kind of complicated: I walked by a busker who is always out, rain or shine, and if you want to hear the angriest acoustic version of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", he's your guy. He's not angry - to the contrary, he's very upbeat - he just has a whiskey- and cigarette-soaked voice. As I walked by him, he pointed ahead to a man about 15 feet away. "Do you know George?" he wheezed. I said I did, that we took the same bus. George has also been the end-recipient of one of my ice cream Gives. The guitarist yelled, "Hey George, she's going to walk to get a Pepsi with you." This was totally out of the blue, and I calmly turned around and said, "Actually, no, I'm not." Unlike yesterday, I was pleased with my ability to stay present and set a boundary, gently but firmly. I mean seriously, would he have made that "decision" for a man?
Here's the thing: George has Down Syndrome. I don't know if the busker had asked George to buy him a soda and wanted someone to make sure he did it (Patronizing Option A) or if he thought George would enjoy my company (Patronizing Option B)... or what. I spent a long time trying to figure that out. I saw George's face kind of fall, and I asked if he was having a difficult day. The busker yelled, "No, George is happy today!" (It irritates me no end when people speak for others who can speak for themselves - yes, this is Judgy IslandGirl). I told George I had another plan - which wasn't entirely true; I was just out for a walk, and it would only have taken a few minutes to walk with him, but I wanted to make it clear to Angry Flowers Dude that he couldn't make decisions for me (seriously, I've never even had a conversation with this guy). As I walked away, I heard George say something. Because my hearing is poor, and he has difficulty enunciating, it took a while for me to process what he'd said. By the time I realized it was "I didn't mean to bother you," I was about 50 feet away, and it felt too awkward to go back.
When I returned from the walk, George was sitting with the busker and staring at the sidewalk, looking dejected. I waved to him, but it seemed as though he refused to look up. So I went over, waited till he looked up and said, "You weren't bothering me. I want you to know that. I just had something else to do." (which, granted, was a lie, but easier than explaining the ways in which I thought the Angry Flowers Dude was being patronizing to both of us.) And his face lit up.
A few hours later, I gave my "planned" gift. A woman I know had brought together some artist friends to paint decorations on her car. My gift, I joked, would be to get nowhere near the paint or the car. Instead, I took them a few litres of lemonade (no, not homemade...I didn't go that far with it). I did try to paint; I did not do very well; I did get paint on my favourite (and one of my only remaining) pair of pants... and I spent the evening trying to get turpentine out of them.
So... that was today. Hope you all had wonderful Saturdays. Cheers!