I have written much about the lies and disinformation spread by Stew Young surrounding the Devils Army. I have written about the idiotic attempts to run them off using zoning laws. I have written about the drugs in Langford, about the rising crime, and about gangsters. I’ve warned about the sad future of Langford unless a different policing model is adopted. Today though, I feel compelled to write about finding honour in Langford.
I want to talk about two old guys
Specifically, I want to talk about the homeless, old guy who found and turned in over $2,000. Also, I want to talk about another homeless gentleman who taught my roommate and me a lesson that still brings tears to my eyes today.
It’s been in the news a lot lately, so you have probably seen the story. It tells about the homeless, old guy who turned all the money in to 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, honour, duty, mercy, hope.”
About seven years ago my roommate and I lived in Sooke. Whenever she came home for the night, I would drive her the next morning to get her methadone in downtown Victoria. There were closer places we could have gotten it, but she was comfortable with the pharmacists where she drank.
Additionally, the clinic downtown was next to her doctor’s office. She was also comfortable there. I made that long trip because I did not want to take her out of her comfort zone and upset what hopefully might be 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. He would be 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. That’s because we would see him 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. It was difficult to know though because of the gray, wiry beard that covered most of his face. Also, the wear from the street and the weather masked the rest of his face. He was definitely overweight. I thought of him as rotund.
As you might expect, he was always wearing the same clothes. He garbed himself in an old, dirt worn, green, nylon jacket that flapped open at the bottom where a zipper should have held it together had the zipper 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, military style, 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 then 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 that there was too much traffic, or that I couldn’t spare a few dollars. They were all lies.
Anyhow, it was a week or so before Christmas and my roommate and I were returning from Costco. We had bought some gifts for her family. Then 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 (perhaps an overreaction for the shame I had felt so many times prior at having passed him by) 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. She 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, and 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, a lesson about judging a book by its cover. And 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. Think about him and 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.
Honour his honour and honour his memory and what he taught us. Be as much of a man as that old gentleman and you can also find contentment and honour.
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 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. I also wonder how many would have turned in the $2,000 found. Is honour something that has been forgotten in our chase for the almighty dollar? Is honour generational, and if so, at which generation did we lose it?
What would your children have done?
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. Then 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 money. 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 honour. Perhaps all he wants is 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.