18 January 2016

The Homeless Flower Guy…

He was selling flower bunches for a buck a piece on Saturday afternoon. While the sun slid down behind Charles Village, he plied his wares to the busy patrons of the street. By the time we passed him, hubby and I had already spent the day walking to downtown and back. We had no cash and were tired from the several mile jaunt, “sorry, we don’t have any cash, have a good afternoon.”

He said thanks and made his way down the block looking for any takers. The flowers in his wire shopping cart were well past their sell-by and undoubtedly came from the rubbish behind a local florist.

When we stopped in the market for dinner fixins, we got $5.oo cash back on the charge and went in search of the chilled salesman. A block later we found him and offered to buy his leftovers. He handed me four bunches of wilted flowers for three bucks then—in a single fluid movement—handed a dollar to a young white panhandling guy standing in front of the Chipotle.

I was floored. This man with nothing gave of what little he had to someone with less. He harbored no judgment and expected nothing in return.

That’s much more than I did in seeking him out with a few dollars in alms.

To me, that young panhandler was likely a junkie, therefore likely a robber, a thief, a cheat—and he was certainly not bartering anything for my dollar.

I latched onto a fallacious stance while in Mexico many years ago. There the adult panhandlers offered you chicles, candy, or a song in return for anything you could spare. There I was generous in giving them whatever spare pesos in my pocket. To me, they were not just beggars but business people of sorts: people not expecting a mere handout, people deserving of my help. 

But whoever said that this was a business: poverty, housing insecurity, lack of food, money, education, even drug addiction, or what-have-you.

The homeless flower guy changed my perspective. He said if you have it to give then give it. He said if you can share then share. He said if you remove all the stipulations that make you ungenerous you can be generous.

Hubby and I walked home in silence while this moment washed over us. We walked hand in hand, while the dying flowers hung limp over the crook of my arm like an unconscious infant. At home, I cut the lower stems off of the flaccid stalks and placed all in my makeshift vase. Looking at the bouquet now, it is full and fragrant and brings joy to our winter home.