Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Driving Force

Here in Hamburg it’s not an uncommon sight to see poor people begging for money in the subway. These down-on-their-luck folks usually ask pretty politely if they can have a bit of change. They also ask if anyone might have some food or empty bottles that they can return for the deposit.

My attitude toward these people ranges. If I’m in a good mood, I might give a little money. But more recently, I haven’t been giving much. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it has gone.

Today, however, I had to give. And it wasn’t even really my decision. Let me explain.

I had been inside a subway car, by the exit doors, doing whatever on my cellphone, when all of a sudden I looked up. Standing before me was a man -- he must have been 20 to 25 years old -- who looked South American. He was barefoot and his feet were filthy. In fact, much of him was just…black with dirt. His hands were dirty and covered in dirt, his pants were dirty. But his feet, those were the worst. They were covered in a dirt that was so opaque it looked like soot. He was making his way through the subway car and he had just stopped in front of me.

I remember that the second I saw him, I said to myself, “Oh, no,” as in, “Give me a break. I don’t feel like dealing with this now.” But then something moved me. It literally felt like it moved me. The next thing I knew, I felt myself reaching into my pocket while saying something under my breath like,  “This guy, wow…,” just some kind of half complete thought like that. I found a 2-euro piece and before I knew it had placed it in his hand.

But again, it felt like something had completed this motion for me, because I didn’t just place the coin in his hand, I pressed it, as if to say, “Dude, take this. Take care of yourself, man.”

What was really touching, though, now that I’m thinking back to this whole experience, was the man's expression when he saw that the coin was a 2-euro piece. It was a look of thanks mixed with surprise, with a tiny, tiny bit of awe in there.

I was happy that I had given the money to the man, and I didn’t even feel self conscious after having done it, even though there were a lot of people around me. But again, it felt more like the driving force that was behind the action was more external than internal.

Very interesting stuff.

No comments: