I was leaving Atlanta’s most #TurntUp nightlife establishment, Prive, on Saturday night (as my friend Ellen recapped, “You were like ‘I hate clubs. Bye.’) when I was approached by a homeless man, who asked me for money to buy food at the nearby Publix. I had an Uber car two seconds away and no cash on me (shocker), but something about this man’s genuine plea (and possibly that last Fireball shot) kicked my generosity into gear and made me realize I had only one option.
And that option at 1:30 in the morning was Domino’s.
“Forget Publix. You like pizza?” I asked him.
He did. (Who doesn’t?)
“Alright, let’s go,” I said, and sprinted down the street in my heels with my new friend in tow probably thinking I was crazy (you guys, it was cold…plus, I like to run when I’ve been drinking for some totally nonsensical reason).
We walked into Domino’s (please note I was wearing a damn fur vest), and I’m sure the employees were wondering if they were on candid camera, about to get robbed, or witnessing the world’s most bizarre interracial date.
And that’s when I turned into Oprah.
“Ok, get whatever you want!” I exclaimed. Pizza all around! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! (Seriously, if I had my car title and keys on me, I probably would have handed them over.)
He seemed skeptical and I had to force him into ordering the largest pizza possible with every single topping he liked. He said that was all he wanted. Pssh. I tacked on some breadsticks (because #YOLO). Then I was like, “Don’t you want a drink?”
He shot me a look that said, “Really? A drink, too?” (or maybe more like “Bitch, you crazy”), but still grabbed a 20-ounce from the cooler.
Me: “Sure you don’t want a 2-liter?”
He stuck with the 20-ounce.
Then we sat down in two of the three plastic chairs in Domino’s glamorous waiting area and got to know one another. He wasn’t too talkative but did mention a daughter who lived in North Carolina and trying to save money to visit her. I told him I was a writer and attempted to explain this ridiculous blog (please picture that conversation).
As we spoke, I couldn’t help but notice how chapped his lips were and wished I had an extra balm on me. If my lips are dry for five seconds, I’m frantically searching for my EOS ball; I can’t imagine going days (weeks, months!) with that feeling.
When our food finally came, we dined in (because where else was he going to go?) basking in the heat and fluorescent lighting, and when he insisted I have a piece, I declined at first, then gave in to a delicious, meaty slice. But I couldn’t help but think, Did I really just take food from a homeless man? And…is this now considered a date?
I didn’t really know what else I could do at that point, so I booked another Uber (apparently, I just blew off my first one) and when it arrived, we said our goodbyes. He was incredibly gracious (and probably still a bit stunned/confused–a common reaction from guys after our first date), and I left wishing I could have done more for that man……and that I’d ordered myself a pizza to go.
I don’t share this story to boast “Look at me, I’m such a good person!” I think we should all do good deeds we are never recognized or repaid for, and sometimes sharing with the world appears self-serving. But I tell it because (most) people appreciate a feel-good story, there’s some humor in it (I think?), it may inspire someone to do the same, and most of all, it has shifted the way I look at those less fortunate and that’s a tale worth telling.
Have you, someone who has things, ever sat down and had a meal and conversation with someone who has nothing? If you have, that’s really awesome. But I hadn’t and honestly, I didn’t have any immediate plans to before last weekend. I mean, I’ve done charitable work and given food to the homeless before (I had so much Chinese food left over after an event once, I drove around until I found a recipient, but didn’t really think much of it).
Although this textchange did come out of it…
But I’ve also locked my doors and looked the other way when homeless people have approached my car at intersections and walked right by them without pause on the streets. And sometimes I (sadly) wonder why I don’t have more compassion. Why we ALL don’t have more compassion. Is it because we think, “Oh they want money to buy drugs,” or “They could get a job if they wanted to,” or “What am I supposed to do; give money to all of them?” Or do we deep down know how fucked up it is that we’re driving around in our SUVs complaining about our iPhones glitches when so many people don’t even have places to sleep that we choose to block it out? Or worse–are we just numb?
I’m not saying those widely echoed assumptions about the homeless aren’t sometimes true, and I’m surely not claiming to be an expert on the issue and/or going to turn into Mother Theresa and start logging all my free time at a soup kitchen, but my experience sitting with that man in Domino’s has given me a new perspective. It has humanized (for lack of a better word) these less fortunate individuals we often overlook, and I feel more compassionate and open to charitable opportunities that may come my way. I find that just setting a personal intention (“I want to help someone in need,” “I want to travel more,” “I want to meet new people,” whatever yours may be) will set it into motion.
And who knows, maybe I will start spending my precious free time when I’d normally be spinning/tweeting/drinking at a shelter serving soup.
Or better yet, meat lovers deep dish.