April 6th, 2005

Good for you

Can't Stop the Bum Rush

At the Apoptosis in Progress seminar, the lunch provided was from Potbelly. Mmm. I decided to cut out early, since I had things to do. I noticed there were some leftover sandwiches, but none of them were turkey, so they didn't do me any good.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I could give them to a bum! There was that one on Liberty by the Michigan Theater who I always ignored, pretending I couldn't hear him over the music on my iRiver. Or I just gave him the hand-wave sorry. Now I could give him lunch.

I grabbed two sandwich halves. One looked to be vegetarian, and the other looked to be...some sort of meat. I also stuffed two Sprites into my pockets for myself. On my way back to my apartment, I thought, hey, why not give him a Sprite too?

Back home, I put the Sprites in the refrigerator and the sandwiches on the counter. Later, I stuck them in the oven and set the oven to WARM. I would do the deed on the way to the comic book store (new Y!) and the DORAK (Do Random Acts of Kindness) meeting.

I had a brown paper bag, so I put the Sprite and sandwiches in and tossed in a napkin. I neglected to add any sort of dessert. Oops. There had been chips and cookies at the seminar too, but I could only carry so much.

I read about lysophosphatidylcholine regulation of HERG and wrote a little bit of my thesis until it was time to go.

The comic book store was on South U, but I had to drop off lunch first. I walked up Catherine and then down State. Everyone was out. It was spring. The weather was nice, if a little on the warm side. Between Zanzibar and Starbucks, a forlorn black man sat and asked for spare change. I gave him the hand-wave sorry instinctually before realizing God was playing a nasty trick on me, because my bum wasn't even going to be there, and I would have to go back to this guy after already walking past him.

Damn you, God!

I decided this bum would do, and maybe he actually was my bum but in another location. It's not like I'd ever gotten a good look at him, though I thought he was older. But anyway. A group of students walked past him without paying him any heed.

I walked to him, and I don't even know whether he remembered me. I hope he didn't.

"Spare change?"

I handed him the paper bag. "I brought you lunch."

And suddenly he sounded like a completely different person. His "Spare change" was so gruff and defeated, a phrase he'd been repeating all day for hours and hours. Now, as he thanked me, he sounded like any other person you'd meet, the kind of guy you could have a conversation with.

"Two sandwiches, and a Sprite," I said.

"Thank you! Thank you so much!" He was genuinely grateful. I was glad he hadn't already eaten or something.

"You're welcome," I sad.

He peeked in the bag and examined the sandwiches. "This is wonderful!" he said. "It looks delicious." You don't normally hear the word "delicious" being used nowadays; it seems so out of place. But it sounded like exactly the right word here. Potbelly sandwiches are good, after all. And I had no idea what he was used to eating.

As I walked away, I checked back and saw him eating his lunch.

So, here's the thing. This didn't cost me anything but a little time and a little walking out of my way. You could argue that I lost a Sprite, but that Sprite was never really mine to begin with. I could have just as easily never taken it. There was no net loss on my part. And this is what I think people should do. There are ways of doing nice things that don't require you to spend a cent. Taking leftover free food and giving it to a bum? Everybody wins.

Such is my call to arms. Go out. Do something nice. It doesn't have to involve feeding a bum. It doesn't have to involve much effort on your part at all. That's the whole point. The cost/benefit ratio here is ridiculously small. There are no diminishing returns.

Oh, let's make this a meme! Do random acts of kindness. And then post about them.