>I did something I’ve never done before this week, I went to the ATM to give money to a stranger. Her leg was bleeding and wrapped in bandages and she said I was the first person who stopped to see if she needed help. I choked back tears and heard her story of trying to get out of the state away from her abusive husband. She asked if I would stand on the sidewalk with her and advocate for domestic violence victims. When I reached into my purse to get my cell phone, she told me she didn’t want my money and instead to just listen or if she could work for me. In California women can only stay in shelters for a short period of time and she needed to leave.
She didn’t ask me for money and so I felt deeply compelled to give. We began walking and I listened to her talk about her 13-year old son and how she had been married for almost two years before the abuse began a long time ago. It had only recently gotten worse. I asked how much the ticket was she wanted to buy. We continued walking and I stopped abruptly at an ATM and gave her the amount it would cost for she and her son to get to Nevada.
I handed her the money and she started crying, then I cried and she hugged me and I walked away with my Ray Bans covering my tears. Before heading home to get her son she asked for my email so that she could contact me when she arrived. I wrote it down and said a silent prayer she would remember. Her pain felt so real that I felt bruised. If she was lying I realized it didn’t even matter. We answer our truth when it calls and I can’t be responsible for hers, only what feels right to me.
Giving and taking (also more commonly described by receiving) is common sense in a community. And so is asking for help. I gave and took from that experience and from her. I felt good knowing I could make a difference and again was left with the guilt of privilege and wondering how I have what I have. This weekend I felt so blessed to have wonderful friends to help me move, they gave to me and now fortunately I was able to give to this woman. Maybe it isn’t that simple.
What did I do to deserve this life full of some magic and perfection? Why do I have all my needs met and she can hardly survive? Where do I even find answers to such questions? The mystery of life begins with these questions, and in some cases ends with them as well. Some spiritual traditions speak of karma from past lives forming our current experience. Some believe it’s without a belief in God, or an illness of the mind. I don’t think there’s an answer. We hear of the experiments where people start off with the same large sum of money and end up with nothing again. I think it’s an illness of the heart – of forgetting our worth. I want to believe despite circumstances everyone can heal and grow and become who they were meant to be.
Some people ask for help, and sometimes we ask them what we can give – the beautiful blend of give and take.