I am in Chicago now on a business trip. I am staying in a fancy hotel in downtown. Last night, I went out to get a bite to eat. On my way to the restaurant, I passed by this homeless woman who was with her three year old child. It just broke my heart. What would I do if I were homeless, living on the street, with my children? I was walking fast, so I didn’t stop at first. I rarely, actually, give to beggars on the street. I don’t know why. Most likely due to miserliness and an uncertainty of whether my giving any money would actually help. I then went to go eat. I had more food than I could eat, while there were others who were hungry. I was thinking of that woman, and how I would like to help her out, and I was hoping that she would still be there when I went back.
Several homeless people came up to me while I was eating asking me if I could help them get something to eat. Because I had already decided I was going to give to the woman, I said no, like I usually do. I don’t know why I did that. Why can I not help out more than one person? I thought about how Luna Kadampa once said she brought a homeless person into her home once to help them out. She is such a good example.
On my way back towards where the woman was, I passed by several homeless people. Most of them were African-American males who had probably been on the streets for a long time. Why did I give nothing to them? I don’t know. I passed one African-American male, not a homeless guy but he looked a bit like a gang banger. He was eating a bag of Skittles, just like that kid who was shot in Florida. How absurd to have laws that enable somebody to shoot some kid. I thought about how Obama had said, “he could have been my kid.” Sad how Obama cannot really talk about race without the haters relating to him as just a black man. He has to not talk about race so he can talk about everything else without being dismissed as just a black man who can only talk about black issues. The same thing happens in Belgium with Muslim politicians – either they can talk only about Muslim issues or they don’t talk about Muslim issues at all so they can talk about everything else. Why as a society do we force such choices on our leaders?
When I got to the woman, I asked her what her story was. I figured it was not enough to just give her money, but I should try relate to her as a human being. She told me how they had come from South Carolina looking for work. She talked about how the father had psychiatric issues. She clearly had next to no education. She was what many people refer to as “white trash.” What a horrible label. Her kid was very skinny, clearly malnourished, and he was playing with the coins that had been thrown in their cup. Most of them were just pennies, small change. These were his toys. What chance does this kid have, growing up on the street? I gave her $5. I had thought back in the restaurant about giving her $10. Why did I cheap out at the end, I don’t know.
I then went back to my fancy hotel. I walked past fancy people eating in fancy restaurants, when just minutes before on the same street there were so many homeless people. I then got to my room, washed my hands in my fancy sink and thought about the obsence excess I enjoy. I remember having seen a film once with John the Baptist, and he said, “those who have two coats should give one to those who have none.” This is what it means to be a Christian, yet often the Christian right favors cutting off public support for homeless people and children. This makes no sense to me.
I thought about how McKenzie, my son, always feels compelled to give to homeless people when he sees them. He sometimes gives his own money. How can my son be a role model for me? I then thought about how in Europe they have a much more generous social safety net, generally giving people enough so they are not on the street or hungry. Why cannot America do the same? I thought about my father’s attitude towards homeless people. He would say, “why don’t they get a job or do something for a living?” But I realize it is not that simple. In a depressed economy, there are few jobs even if people are willing to work. Even in a non-depressed economy, some people for whatever reason just have not received a proper education or they have not had good role models or they have been raised in messed up families or situations. I thought of that kid. Yes, we must each assume personal responsibility for ourselves and our family, but as a society we also have a responsibility to help each other out.
I then later did my practice. During the self-generation, we imagine we transform ourselves into a universal pure land. Surrounding Mount Meru are the continents. And I was blessed with the feeling of “I am providing homes to all living beings in the continents.” I then felt, “may I become food for those who are hungry, shelter for those who need it.” I thought about how I should mentally understand and feel like I am providing a home to my family and my children and nanny. If I do not generate the mental intention of providing a home for others, I scantly will create the karma of doing so. I should train in feeling like I am providing food to my family, clothes to them, etc. I do many things without bothering to train in the mental intention of giving and providing. This is just a laziness on my part, and a missed opportunity.