Monday, August 24, 2009

Adventure Day 33 Part 1 - #16 Eat at a Vegan Restaurant

I was excited and a little nervous about this item on my list; it was definitely something that was new to me. You see I am a meat eater all the way. I don’t tend to eat mounds and mounds of it but I do love it! However a friend and I had talked about wanting to try this vegan restaurant we’d noticed down town so we set a date (actually a few as we kept cancelling on each other) and we did it!

I hopped on the bus that I usually take that just goes down one of the main streets in the city I live in and then jumped off when I was at my desired location. I had a bit of a walk and happened to arrive a bit early so I called my friend to confirm where we were meeting and then proceeded to wait patiently for her outside of the restaurant.

I stood there for only a few minutes when I noticed a man in his forties approaching me, I instantly knew what he wanted. ‘Could you spare some change, I am in an unfortunate circumstance ma’am’ he pleaded. As he held out his hands for any possible hope he might receive I immediately saw the state of them. They were twice the size they should have been, all of the skin on them was peeling off, and his fingernails were very thick, yellow and large.

Now usually I don’t carry any change with me at all but I remembered putting some of my laundry money in my wallet for a coffee outing I ended up not having to pay for. Without a word I quickly handed him two dollars in change (about a third of what I had) and he thanked me and moved on down the street.

I remember a ‘mission’ trip I went on in high school, to a city in another close by country, where the rich and poor don’t live far from each other (do they ever really?). There people didn’t hesitate to come beg for money with tall tales to tell, only minutes after you dropped it in their hands you saw them with booze in their hand or perhaps even with some drugs. You soon learned that if you wanted to feed the hungry just offer to buy them a sandwich or some dinner. After that experience I vowed never to give money to a beggar again … until recently.

To be quite honest giving money to someone who asks (presumably in need) is really not a difficult thing to do. They ask, you give. The transaction takes maybe 20 seconds – all depending on the availability of your wallet or response. Pretty easy deal. If you give without thinking you feel a warm and fuzzy deep inside and reflect ‘Well that felt good, I’m a decent person – I hope I don’t run into anymore people like this though, I need change for my coffee run’. On the contrary you may feel: ‘Why don’t you just get out and find a job you hobo, instead of guilting me into giving you my hard earned money – sheesh!’ I’ll admit I’ve felt both on different occasions, but I am beginning to wonder if one either is an appropriate response to have.

Obviously the latter shows clearly the state of our heart and seems initially wrong, but what about the warm and fuzzy feelings – why are they ok? Is it really a good thing for us to get a wonderful feeling for giving a few cents or dollars to help someone out? Why are we so proud of ourselves for merely throwing a few drops in the bucket that in the long term will most certainly not quench the thirst of the one in need? That’s hardly something to be proud of when we are only doing it to make ourselves feel good or get someone out of our way.

As the man walked away I found myself feeling ashamed of my reaction, which was to give him the minimum. Not only that but I didn’t even talk to him!!! How horrible. To be honest I think I was a bit stunned at his forwardness; I haven’t had an experience like this in a couple of years. I have, in my mind, been trying to prepare myself for this exact scenario so that I could take the chance to not give money but instead invite the person out for a meal and hear their story. I knew the second this man left I wanted desperately to do just that, but I was meeting a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while, not only that but I was a woman and he a stranger to me. I’m not really sure where the lines of appropriateness blur but I know Wally wouldn’t be jumping up and down at the idea of me having lunch with a homeless man – any man for that matter. But does that mean I shouldn’t do it?

Getting back to my promise to never give money, I didn’t think I should give money to someone who was going to throw it away on an addiction or something that could hurt themselves – that would be a waste and I would be enabling right? I wouldn’t want to hurt someone. Wait a minute though, after deciding this within myself I had yet to offer to buy anyone lunch; rather I would ignore their pleas and go about my day – oh yeah, that’s so much better, isn’t it? Not only that but I was totally in denial if I believed that I myself didn’t throw a large amount of my money at my own addictions: food, useless craft supplies, sales on stuff that I didn’t even need or use – how is it ok for me to waste ‘my own’ money but not let someone else? I guess we would use the fact that we earned it as a defense. However by doing that we’ve just put ourselves above those with less and decided that it’s ok for us to have ‘appropriate addictions’ but not ok for them to have what we deem as ‘inappropriate addictions’. That’s hardly fair.

Pride is an ugly thing and separates us into imaginary worlds where we decide the rules and rights of everyone in it. So delusional, I think.

With my new reformed ideas you are probably wondering what exactly I think one should do in a situation such as this. Well, ideally I think we should take the time to sit down and share a meal with someone in need. Doing so knowing that they have a story and maybe they’ll share it, maybe you’ll learn a valuable lesson from it, or just make a new friend. Or maybe they won’t share a thing, and a ‘thank you’ may inevitably get lost in the exchange of needs, you part wondering why you did what you did, but in the end remind yourself that what you get out of it doesn’t really matter. If the only thing you take away is a realization of how great your life is – that’s enough.

I remember reading a book where the pastor was talking about working with street people and on their ‘mission’ (so to speak), they were handing out cigarettes. Their mission wasn’t to ‘convert the willing’ it was to reach out and show people love, understanding and willingness, to care with a humble gesture of friendship – like the cigarettes were a gift (hello, I’d be listening if you sat beside me with the most delicious freshly baked cookies – that’s my vice). A few years ago this idea would have completely offended me but since growing up a bit I am becoming more aware of how to relate to others that are different – by no means am I claiming to be good at it but I am at least trying to be awake to possibilities of how to connect with (no, not bribe) people. If someone comes to my door with a pamphlet about the benefits and truths of their belief system I promise you I will close the door in their face and only get more annoyed with every interaction I am forced to have with them, even those whom I may agree with. However, if I run into someone while I’m doing life and they meet me where I’m at (whether it’s in the ugliest place in town or with the most unattractive flaws) and just sit beside me, I am going to be much more willing to accept their love, friendship and maybe even thoughts on things.

Meeting this man reminded me of how easy it is to stay disconnected from the brokenness that’s in our world – so easy. I need to make an effort, first in my mind, then in my actions to get over myself and meet people (of all kinds) where they are at – I have such a long way to go. But at least I’m on the road …somewhere.

Ok you are probably wondering about the Vegan restaurant … well it was alright. I’d go back again, and order something different. I had a black been burger that exploded from the instant I bit down on it. It tasted ok but wasn’t my favourite – however I tried something new. The interesting thing I learned about the Vegan restaurant was how few vegetable dishes there were. Don’t get me wrong there were vegetables on the menu but they weren’t as abundant as I thought. Instead there were out of the ordinary bean plates and one recipe with a variety of seeds made into a pate – very different from my norm. I really do love trying new things, but the outcome of doing so always ends up teaching me something completely unexpected!

Last minute confession: I wrote this post before going to have my pedicure, here’s something that happened as I was leaving the pedi place: a man was standing outside of the storefront and asked my friend for money – I was thoroughly annoyed and glad I got away without having to be guilted into giving. I thought to myself: ‘Couldn’t he see I didn’t have time for this?’ and walked straight to my car.

I have further to go than I thought …


Shell Bell said...

Unrelated, but you mentioned no one ever asked you what "Queen of the Towels" meant, but I don't recall getting the answer to tell :)

S. said...

Well one thing about that particular veg restaurant (if it's the one you mentioned another time) is that it is raw food vegan, so it takes it a step "beyond". When we went I had the veggie tofu scramble plate and it was delish, and hubby had fettucini alfredo and really liked it :)

When visiting our Nations lovely capital on vacation (one of my fav places to go and I really recommend it!!!) I often encounter an unfortunate # of homeless people :( So the last time I went I bought a couple of boxes of fruit bars and always kept a few in my purse, every time I saw a homeless person I offered them a fruit bar and they all happily accepted them! Had a friend who lived there and she took it a step further and would hand out home made peanut butter sandwiches to them.
You never know what experiences or mental health issues brought them to this point in life and they are someone's child, brother...

Anonymous said...

Great idea with the fruit bars and sandwiches!! and I definitely agree with keeping in mind their past and stuff - it is so easy to be so in the moment that we forget about our humanity - thanks for the comment :)