last week i was getting gas on the outskirts of Beverly Hills and noticed a bare-chested (but pants-wearing) homeless guy in a wheelchair. i don’t think he needed the chair. it looked more like a convenient seat than a necessity. thanks to his long beard and shaggy, matted gray hair he looked like Noah, or another old man who seamlessly combines the mythical and nautical aesthetics.
by the time i arrived he’d already amassed a lot of donations, mostly bottles of water because it was sweltering. i’d stashed fancy bar soap i’ll never need in my car for such occasions and was excited to hand it off to someone who could use it.
i walked over to Poseidon and handed it to him. he thanked me and i turned to walk away. “umm!” he called after me, “what is it?”
“it’s soap!” i said, turning around.
“do you have any spare change?”
i laughed the snorty laugh of someone thinking, this is ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ come to life, pal, and told him no. initially, i thought, even the homeless of Beverly Hills have a high opinion of themselves!
but later, my perspective shifted. because although he was destitute and owned little except a flawless tan, a wheelchair, and (thankfully) a pair of pants, he still had the courage (the nerve?) to ask for what he wanted.
most of us would worry about appearances, wondering, “what will she think of me?” or think “how embarrassing,” and keep our mouths shut. or we’d tell ourselves, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and be grateful for what you do have.”
while these responses sometimes are appropriate, agonizing over others’ reactions to our desires or honest answers is a waste of time.
his question gave me a glimpse of the liberty in life outside the jurisdiction of the court of public opinion.
you might think, must be nice! but within reason, we can all stop obsessing over what others may think.
maybe this man's an extreme example, since he’s living outside the system and is focused on survival. social niceties fell off the radar long ago. knowing he had just one shot, he immediately went all in.
but if he’s living by the Nora Roberts quote, “if you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” why on earth aren’t the rest of us?