begging

I was out on the streets begging last night.

Yup. It’s true.

I stood on a cold and breezy Summerland street corner – occasional light snowflakes dancing in the air – with a little cardboard box to collect coins and bills from curious passersby and gawkers. I didn’t sing or play my guitar for the money, I just stood there. And stood there. And stood there.

Oh alright … now for the rest of the story.

I was dressed as MR. GRINCH for the Annual Summerland Christmas Light-Up Celebration.

A pillowy blend of stars and cloud and a gold-hued half moon painted the sky overhead as I stood on a raised pedestal as a silent, unmoving Grinch statue. When someone put a coin or bill in my donation box, I’d shift positions – very slowly –  then wink, shake hands or give a high five to the donor before settling back into my solid, stolid statue pose.

It’s pretty much the most fun you can have with clothes on; listening to people talk around and about you as if you weren’t there. Talk about being a proverbial fly on the wall.

Wee little “Cindy Lou Who” tykes touched and poked me, teenagers waved their gloved hands and steaming, fragrant mini-donuts in front of my green Grinch nose, and the now ubiquitous iPhone camera was hauled out over and over and over so photos could be taken with the Grinch.

For a mean, smelly guy with termites in his teeth, I was amazingly popular!

And the really good news is that all of that money dropped in the donation box will now be split and go to the local soup kitchen and the SPCA.

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The second part of this story is that I also spent two mornings this week helping at the Soupateria, a local soup kitchen for those in need of a hot meal.

I chopped carrots and onions and cabbage for Beef Barley soup. I mixed egg salad for sandwiches. I cut and plated blueberry and apple pie. I cleared and washed tables as the polite folks finished their lunches.

And that makes this week very unusual for me because I gave more – more time, more energy, more help – of myself than I normally do.

And in the end, like a true Grinch, I found myself with a larger heart and a warm, fuzzy feeling that tells me pretty clearly who really got the better end of the stick in all of this.

This probably sounds like I’m bragging, and OK, perhaps I am, but really, the message I want you to hear is that I’m not normally a very giving person. I know I have a fine quality or two, but I don’t believe that selfless is one that would be written on my epitaph.

Handsome, yes. Charming, yes. Scintillating sense of humour, yes. Selfless, NO.

When it comes to the act of giving, most of my compassionate contributions have come through cash donations… a regular monthly withdrawal from my bank account to PLAN Canada and UNICEF, and the occasional dollar or two dropped into plump, red Salvation Army kettles and Air Cadet Poppy boxes near Remembrance Day.

Don’t stone me for it, ’cause this isn’t bad at all.

But it is easy.

For me this week, truly easy was out. There was a modicum of forfeiture involved. I was a little chilled doing my statue gig, and I used some precious time that could have been joyously expended on a massage table, pouring over annual reports, or playing a casino slot machine, but really, this cost me next to nothing.

I wish I was more altruistic … you know, a giving person who is always there to help … that guy who helps old ladies cross the street, picks up every chilled hitchhiker huddling at the side of a highway, or makes hot casseroles to pass along to a family struggling with health concerns.

Altruism

I know others who are always there give a hand no matter the situation or time, or the sacrifice it takes for them to assist. True Mother Theresa types.

Because I’ve won the lottery of being born to a 20th century middle-class family in a very wealthy part of the world, I have to continually remind myself of the fabulous stuff that has just dropped in my lap.

I’ve been given a huge head start on millions of others who have to scrabble and scrape just to get to the white start line of the race where I’ve been given an enormous 800-metre advantage. The starter pistol fires and I’ve practically won the race already.

But most times, I have to consciously recognize my good fortune and health and direct some of my time and energy towards making more of an effort to be a good human being, even if I don’t personally feel the motivating push of a greater power in order to do that.

I think of it as just plain common sense. The same common sense that says I can stop at a red light in the middle of the night, and seeing no cars (especially the kind with flashing lights on the top) in any direction, hit the accelerator – sans squealing tires – and be on my merry way.

I suspect you probably figured out this whole altruism thing years before I ever came to the realization.

As Father Time marches along, I suspect I’ll never become Mother Theresa.

I doubt I’m re-writing my epitaph.

But maybe I can carve out a few moments now and again to hanging out on a chilly street corner “begging” so that others might not have to.

I’m liking this slightly-more-altruistic side of myself.

Oh The Whomanity!! I feel less GRINCH-y already.

Who-Manity

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