A few weeks ago, we were waiting outside a Little Caesars for our pizza to be ready when Curtis and I were approached by a homeless man.
(And of course, the bundles we had just made were at my place instead of in our cars 🤦♀️ )
He asked if we had any money, but we didn’t have any cash on us. I gave him the 41 cents in my wallet and we told him to wait with us for our pizza so we could give him some.
He was cold and asked if we had a blanket, and Curtis gave him one out of his car. When our order was finally ready, we gave him a piece of pizza, bought him some crazy bread, and then I went back to buy him some water to make sure he was hydrated.
The water was TWO DOLLARS AND NINETEEN CENTS. That’s more than a two liter of name brand soda from the grocery store! And this was just one little bottle! I was so annoyed! But I put my penny pincher mind on pause because this wasn’t about me. I took the water out to him, but since we had given him so much stuff (pizza slice, blanket, bread, water bottle) he couldn’t carry it all and was using the trash can lid to balance everything when… the water bottle fell in the trash can!!!!
For reference, the trashcan looked like:
The man told me to forget about it, but that bottle was $2.19! I wasn’t letting that go to the trash! So I piled everything in Curtis’s arms to hold while I tipped over the trash can to go trash crawling for the water bottle. Of course, as I did that, I looked down and my loose glasses, aided by the fabric from my mask, slid off my face and onto the ground. As I stepped back to look for them, trash can still in hand, I stepped on my glasses. And they broke in three pieces. Then Curtis showed me that I could’ve just… taken the lid off the trashcan instead of immediately becoming a rabid racoon.
I told the story to my roommate when I got back to my apartment and she laughed and said “no good deed goes unpunished.” I figured that was a pretty fitting moral of the story.
I’m learning that if you really want to help people, it’s going to be inconvenient. You’re going to have to be a little selfless sometimes and part with things that you don’t want to lose, like the spare blanket you keep in your car, or a piece of the hot and READY pizza that took 20 minutes for the staff to make, or TWO WHOLE DOLLARS and nineteen cents. It’s sometimes going to come at the cost of your pride, as you learn that the ways you help maybe aren’t best for the needs of those you’re helping. It’s going to come at the cost of knowing that you will never be able to do enough to help everyone who needs it. But, in my experience, it will also come with the feeling that it’s a worthwhile fight.
I think Elphaba had some merit when she said that no good deed goes unpunished, but I don’t think I share the same bitterness about the sentiment. The superglued glasses that I now wear daily help me see “good deeds” in a different way. It’s no longer about warm fuzzies that happen after I give someone something — it’s about the way my heart breaks for people who can’t catch a break. And how it’s not “nice” of me to give what I can, it’s literally my responsibility as a neighbor, a friend, and a Christian. And responsibilities are not always easy. Or fun. Or convenient. Or rewarded.
Maybe not all good deeds go unpunished… but I’m willing to take the risk.