I have written much about the lies and disinformation spread by Stew Young surrounding the Devils Army. I am outraged at his idiotic attempts to run a Hells Angels puppet club off using zoning laws. I have written about the drugs there, about the rising crime, about gangsters and about the sad future of Langford unless a different policing model is adopted. Today though, I feel compelled to write about finding honor in Langford, and of all the places one might look for it, finding it on the street.
Specifically, I want to talk about the homeless, old guy who found and turned in over $2,000. I also want to tell you about another homeless gentleman who taught my roommate and me a lesson. His lesson still brings tears to my eyes today.
It’s been in the news a lot lately, so you have probably seen the story. It’s about a homeless, old guy who turned $2,000 into the RCMP last week.
I want to give you what I hope might be a new perspective on that situation. To do so, please allow me to first tell you the story of an elderly, homeless man whom my roommate and I encountered a few years ago.
Winston Churchill: “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”
About seven years ago, my roommate and I lived in Sooke. Whenever she had come home for the night, I would drive her the next morning to get her methadone in downtown Victoria. There were other places we could have gotten it, but she was comfortable with the pharmacists where she drank her methadone. Despite the clinic being downtown I was happy to drive her there. I did not want to upset what was becoming a successful drug recovery program for her.
As we would pass through Langford on our way to the pharmacy, or back home, we had grown accustomed to seeing an old bum pushing his shopping cart full of treasures up and down the main road in Langford. It seemed to us as though he had no place to go and wasn’t in a hurry to get there. He would be headed along going one direction and an hour later we might see him struggling with his cart going the opposite direction.
He was probably in his mid-sixties, or close thereto. With the gray, wiry beard that covered most of his face and the wear from the street and the weather that masked the rest of his face, it was difficult to know his age. He was definitely overweight, even rotund.
He always wore an old, dirt worn, green, nylon jacket that flapped open at the bottom where a zipper should have held it together. That’s if the zipper had not been pulled into dysfunction by his belly. His pants were khaki-esque or what I might describe as a “smudgy street brown.” He had on an old pair of boots, scuffed but looking functional. They were military style, but gaping open because of no laces. He shuffled rather than walked making it appear as if the boots were heavier than he could handle.
I always found an excuse, but Christmas changed that
I looked at this guy and felt sorry for him each time we passed him. Yet I did nothing and felt ashamed of myself every time I saw him in my rear view mirror. I masked my shame by convincing myself that I had too many things to do. Or I would tell myself that there was too much traffic, or that I couldn’t spare a few dollars. All were lies.
Anyhow, it was a week or so before Christmas and my roommate and I were returning from Costco. We had purchased some gifts for her family.
On the way, I spotted this old guy walking his usual route. Wanting to teach my roommate a lesson about the true joy that can come from giving, I pulled over the car a half a block or so ahead of him. I handed her a fifty dollar bill and told her that we should walk back and give it to the old guy. I added that it might be the best gift he ever received and that we ever received.
Democritus: “By desiring little, a poor man makes himself rich.”
A Gift Rejected and a lesson learned
We exited the vehicle and walked the few yards back to him. My roommate extended her hand to him with the fifty dollar bill in it and said words to the effect of, “Please take this and enjoy your Christmas. We want you to treat yourself.”
The elderly guy then shocked us both by declining the money. He extracted a fifty dollar bill of his own from his pocket. Then he said, “Thank you, but I don’t need the money. I am happy and have money of my own. Somebody else gave me fifty dollars the other day and I don’t know what to do with it.”
That old guy, at least in my mind, had gone from being a bum on the street for whom I had felt sorry, to being a man, but not just a man, an actual gentleman, and a gentleman of honor. In the course of some twenty seconds, he had reminded me of a lesson that I had learned years ago. He had reminded me that I should not judge a book by its cover. He did it in a way that still makes me smile and cry at the same time every time I think of him. I was, and am, humbled by the caliber of that gentleman.
The hardship of the streets won the battle
About a week later when we had not seen him for awhile, I stopped at a gas station along his usual route and inquired about him. The young lady behind the counter told me that he had passed away a few days prior. She said he was lying next to his shopping cart when he was found.
It saddened me, but I take comfort in knowing that he had found contentment, despite his lot in life. To all you people out there who think life is hopeless, remember that old gentleman. Remember how little he had and how little it took for him to be content. Then take comfort in what you have and move on doing the right thing with your life if you want more or want to change it.
Honor his honor and honor his memory and what he taught us. Be as much of a man as that old gentleman and you can also find contentment.
Thinking about these two gentlemen
Please realize that both of these old gentlemen, the one who found the money and the one who turned it down, could be classed as “senior citizens”. Therefore, they are two generations away from those whom we school and those who have just graduated and are headed into the world to make their mark on society.
That causes me to wonder if this youngest generation would have turned down the $50 offered by my roommate. And it makes me curious whether or not any would have turned in the $2,000 found. Is honor something that has been forgotten in our chase for the almighty dollar? Is honor generational? If so, at which generation did we lose it?
I believe that both of my children would have turned in the money. What do you think your children would have done? If you are not sure, perhaps it is time to have them read this blog posting and to have a conversation with them.
Teaching is about more than just talking. It’s also about actions. So, allow me another question please. Do you think that your children believe that you would have turned in the $2,000? If you are not sure, perhaps it is also time that you take a hard look at your actions and ask yourself what your actions teach your children.
We often make the mistake of judging what people want based on our own prejudices
Now a good citizen has stepped forward and started a fund raising campaign for the old gentleman who turned in the $2,000. As of a few nights ago, I understand that $3,100 had already been collected. Bravo!
With kudos for this fundraiser given, I need to ask if this gentleman doing the fundraising is making the same mistake that I made with the homeless gentleman whom my roommate and I sought to help by offering him money. Is our fundraiser judging the homeless gentleman’s wants and needs by his own prejudices?
Perhaps our hero who turned in the money doesn’t want to be a hero. Perhaps he doesn’t want a place to live. Perhaps he doesn’t want the responsibility of things that are important to us, but not to him. I’m not saying it is so, but perhaps he is content with his life and with his honor and with his blanket of stars, just like the old gentleman my roommate and I encountered. Perhaps this old gentleman has a richer life than we can ever imagine. I hope so.