Love is greater than guilt

So we have a large homeless population in Minneapolis. I had a couple from Austin, TX in my cab last night. The woman works with the homeless population in Austin and so I included a tour of some of our homeless facilities. She was amazed at how big they were.

Personally, if I was living on the streets I would rather be in Austin, TX than Minneapolis, MN… certainly in the winter, but I guess I had never thought about whether we had more or less people who were homeless than other cities. But I do think about people who are homeless a lot and I am very grateful that they are part of my life. They have taught me so much about survival and what is important in life. My senior intership in college was working at a drop in center for homeless youth. I love that as a pedicab driver I get to help and interact with people who are homeless all the time. I love when I have a good night like last night and I am able to give money to people who are homeless.

Most people who are homeless do not have jobs but that does not mean that the don’t have money or ways to get money. In this society we all need money to survive and being homeless does not exempt anyone from that reality. Unemployed people living on the street find ways to get money from government services, private charities and from you. The charities and government programs are a pretty set deal. The best opportunity a person has to improve their situation is with you. You are the variable. Whether or not you give to this other human being is what makes the difference.

But this isn’t really about the homeless. This is everyone. We all survive by someone giving us money. We may say that we earned the money, and certainly we did, but there are other ways to get you to work. Slavery may have been outlawed but we are not so removed from it to forget that it existed.

At least when we are giving money to the homeless we are doing it out of our own free will, right?

Not funking exactly! The homeless use the same tactics to get money from you that corporations do. These are the same tactics that politicians use. They are the same tactics that get us to buy lottery tickets. They are the same tactics that every business uses. They are the same tactics that pedicab drivers use. They play on our emotions. They use our love, hope, fear, joy and guilt to get us to give them money.

So here is my story:

I finished early last night; before bar close. I headed to the Saloon where a number of my friends go for Hard Mondays and still had time to down a couple of strong cocktails before heading to McKenzie for a good beer before the night was over. There I met a guy who was in town from San Francisco to record with my friend Matt “the Doctor” Fink of Prince and the Revolution. There is a whole nuther story there but it’s a bit off topic. Still, we talked until 2:30 am and they said we had to leave. I returned to the Saloon to get my bike and ran into a few friends who were still hanging out. After they left I found myself with the homeless guys who hang out in front of the Saloon.

I didn’t have much to offer but I did have an airline bottle of gin and cigs to go around. A couple of guys insisted on giving me money so I accepted it. In my line of work people insist on giving me money all the time. I kind of have to take it or I don’t get to keep working.

[There are actually about three or four more stories that could go here but I’m sorry, I can’t actually write about everything. If you feel like you are missing anything read the last 70,000 words I’ve written… or stay tuned for the next 70,000,]

At the end of my stay one of the guys asked me if he could get the money he gave me back. This put me in a very awkward position. I will give anyone anything that I can when I am motivated by love. I gave him a cigarette out of love. He gave me money which I received as love and now he wants it back. We had a little conversation and this is what I left him with:

“We had an exchange that was based in love. If I give you money, the money you gave me, it will be tainted with guilt. The love that we shared has more value than the money in my pocket and if you carry that love into the world you will find more money than what you gave me for a cigarette.”

He agreed with me and I hope that he did find more money. If not, I totally own him 53 cents.

Here is my million dollar idea for which I only expect a penny on the dollar:

Stand at the end of a freeway exit with a sign that simply says, “I Love You”. I would suggest using some colored markers and making it pretty but here is the key: hand the drivers who give you money a flower. It could be a wild flower that you pick from the roadside or feel free to come pick flowers from my yard. They say that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar but I don’t think that is true. Besides, who the fuck would want to catch flies anyway? I’m just saying that you can catch more money with love than guilt. For all I know I might be wrong about that but still… as long as you can get what you need – fucking do it with love.

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Homeless or homefree

Working downtown I encounter a lot of people who are homeless. There are many different reasons why someone may find themselves without a permanent place to call home so I really don’t want to put them in one definitive category. For many it’s an absolute tragedy and a disgrace that we as a society can’t do a better job of caring for our fellow earthlings.

For some abandoning the shackles of a permanent residence is simply the best of the available options. Some may wish for better options but for some being homeless is a viable solution to the challenges life presents. I prefer to call these people homefree. Unencumbered by unnecessary belonging; physical, geographical and emotional ties, their daily needs for food, shelter and security are real, tangible and attainable. It may not be a perfect life but no life is. I don’t judge anyone for how they manage to survive so long as it doesn’t require hurting other people. When I look at all of the people downtown it’s not those we call homeless that are causing the most harm.

In a way I envy them. I look at the problems in my life and most of them have to do with maintaining permanence; my home, my possessions and my relationships. Sometimes I wish I had more important things to worry about – not to suggest that relationships aren’t importance, they are. It’s just that when it comes to maintaining relationships the problems seem to stem from the expectation and insistence on permanence. It might be better to accept, support and even encourage the inevitability of change.

Currently my biggest problem is a drippy faucet in my bathtub – a first world problem for sure. It’s a small drip but I still figure it is wasting five gallons of water a day. I have a bucket catching the water so that I can recycle as much as possible but that’s not a permanent solution. I know how to fix it, I know what I have to do, I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get to it before Monday or Tuesday and it’s really not what I want to be doing with my precious time.

Still, as I was biking home from downtown last night, rain beginning to fall as a major storm approached, I felt very grateful that I had a climate controlled and safe place to sleep.

Instant karma

Man I was spacey yesterday. I just didn’t seem to be able to get it all together. At no point was this more prevalent than when I was backing out of the parking spot after grabbing some food at Subway. I don’t know what I was thinking about or where my head was at but the next thing I knew I heard a crunch behind me and my van came to a stop. I looked back to see that I was butt to fender with a big blue SUV. I pulled back into the parking spot I had just attempted to leave and got out to talk to the driver of the other vehicle.

Out came a very distraught young hispanic woman. I told her how sorry I was and asked what she wanted to do. As it turned out it wasn’t her truck that she was driving so she got on the phone to call the owner. I stood by waiting to find out how this was going to play out. I was concerned because I was on my way to pick up my daughter from an appointment and I had no idea how long this was going to take.

It actually didn’t take very long at all. The SUV was blocking traffic that was trying to leave the parking lot so when I saw her pull out onto the street I figured she was just going to find a place to park so that we could finish our conversation. Instead she just drove away. I waited for a good five minutes just to see if she was going to return but she never did.

I felt bad because I really wanted to make things right. This wasn’t something that needed to be an insurance claim; considering that both of our vehicles were already a bit banged up it seemed pretty unlikely that there were going to get the minor dent fixed. Still, I would have liked to give her some money or something.

Yes, I was relieved that now I could now go get my daughter but I carried with me an unsettled feeling that karma was out of balance. I knew that I would have to do something to make things right with the universe.

Fortunately I have one of those jobs that gives me countless opportunities to help people. While biking down 3rd Avenue in my pedicab on my way to see if I could give rides to the theatre crowd when Pride and Prejudice let out I passed a woman crossing the street.

She hollered out, “How much do you cost?”

I circled back around. She was carrying a huge garbage back that probably contained everything that she owned.  “Whatever you can give me”, I answered.

“I don’t have anything.”

“Well, I guess it’s free then.”

I hate it when people ask me for a free ride, I just think that is rude, but I love giving them whenever I can. This woman was so overwhelmed that someone would stop and help her while expecting nothing in return. She simply couldn’t believe it. My attitude is that I am here to help as many people in any way I can and trust that the universe will provide me with what I need.

I must of spent half an hour with this woman. She didn’t know exactly where she was going and her phone had died so she couldn’t even look up the information or call anyone. I took her to Noodles & Company in Northeast Minneapolis which I noticed had outlets available where she could charge her phone. I waited with her until her phone charged enough that she could call her friend and then I waited with her until he arrived. She really wanted to give me something. I said that she could give me a hug which she did. Apparently, that was not enough because she began digging through her purse until she found a dollar to give me. I accepted it but later that night I gave the dollar to another person who was homeless and asking for money.

Five minutes after leaving my new friend I picked up a couple outside of The Bulldog NE. They wanted to go to the Gay 90’s for the drag show and wondered if that was too far. I told them, “Not at all, I would love to give you a ride to the 90’s”. They hopped in and off we went.

Once we reached their destination they asked me how much they owed me. I gave them my usual pitch about giving what they’ve got to give. The woman asked if a hundred dollars would be good. I said a hundred dollars would be very good. The man reached in his wallet and handed me one hundred and fifty dollars for the ride – the biggest tip I have received to date.

At this point I could have called it a night and gone home. It would have been a $60/hour night. But that’s not the way karma works. You don’t do one good deed for one person and the next person repays you. It’s an ongoing thing so I kept going. I took that love and gratitude and spread it around downtown Minneapolis for the next five hours. In the end it wound up being a $34/hour night which is still well above average.

 

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