Walking home from the train station on Friday I decided to take the long way (one extra block that passes in front of shops and restaurants). As I am passing, a man sitting on a stoop asks me if I speak Spanish, I said no and continued on.
People often mistake me for Hispanic. Most people think I am Dominican or Puerto Rican. Unlike some Brazilians I know, I do not mind or am offended being addressed in Spanish. The reason I didn’t stop was because the man looked either drunk or on drugs.
After I took a few steps I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t go back and at least found out what he wanted. So I did. I had a feeling I knew what he wanted.
I approached and asked him in Spanish what he needed and he asked in perfect English if I had money to give him, I said no, and turned to walk away.
Of course, I couldn’t walk away, I turned back around and asked him why he needed money. He said was for food. I am not sure why at this point I chose to use a lie instead of the truth. I said: It is against my religion to give money. Well, I guess perhaps it is not such a lie as I do have my personal beliefs and I don’t believe in giving money when I doubt it will be used for what is intended. I think I lied because I don’t think he was ready to handle the truth. Also I don’t think anyone can argue with a person’s religion so I guess I expected my belief to be respected.
And it was, he didn’t argue with me. I offered to buy him a plate of food at any restaurant around. My neighborhood has all types of cuisine and they are all great, India, Mexican, Peruvian, American, Soul food, but he said he wanted pizza. I said: Fine, there is a pizza place at the end of the next block. Let’s go there or I can go and get it for you.
He then said he wanted it later, that he was not hungry at the moment. I decided not to point out to him that he had just told me a minute ago that he was hungry. I confirmed with him that he didn’t want food at this point. He said: later.
I said okay then, if I come by later and you are hungry then I will get you pizza then. He said: ok.
Now that we seemed to reach an understanding, I walked away guilt free.
Why then I now feel guilty for feeling guilt free? Why do I have to always feel I should have done more?