The other day I was on my way to volunteer to serve lunch at a soup kitchen with some friends. I’ve done this before, and found it to be a gratifying experience. I was really looking forward to doing it again.
But while waiting for my friends, a homeless woman came by, looked at me, and started screaming, “Fat pig!!! Gross!!!” She then lifted up a metal trash can that probably weighed more than she did, and heaved it in my direction.
First of all, how fascinating that she could take one look at me and know exactly what buttons to push to hurt my feelings. Would that she could employ her intuitive nature for good. But I tried not to take it personally. It was clearly a mental health issue rather than an attack focused on me.
After she was done with me, she started screaming at a beggar, calling him the n word and declaring that nobody would give him any money. Then she walked down the middle of a very busy street, causing cars to swerve. Then she swung her jacket at a passerby, barely missing his head. After that, she overturned a full trashcan and spread the refuse all over the meal site.
Although I felt sorry for her, I was also rather rattled. Needless to say her behavior was a bit unpredictable. I began to wonder if this volunteering was a good idea after all.
That really brought me up short. Was I there to have fun? No. Was I only willing to help if it was convenient to me? Er… Well… Hmmm…
But soon my friends rallied around, and the soup kitchen staff went out of their way to make me feel safe. And everyone who came for food (including, ironically, the woman in question, who seemed rather contrite after having a chat with the local police), were very friendly and appreciative of our efforts.
In spite of that kerfuffle at the beginning, I have no regrets for having volunteered on that day. After a little moral struggle, I realized that I was not there for me. I was there for them. Once I reminded myself of that fact, my choices became clear.
May we all help each other in our times of need.