At one point, in my early 20s, I was down to my last few dollars. I had graduated from college, (with all of the attendant student loans and debt), and I moved to Washington DC with literally $23 in my pocket. I had found a basement to live in but had no idea how I would pay the next month’s rent. I was walking the streets of downtown DC, looking for a job. I had five dollars in my pocket for lunch and the metro ride home. I ran across a woman and her two children. They were homeless and hungry. I spent that five dollars on lunch for them. It wasn’t much. It bought them a sandwich and a couple of apples at one of the Dupont Circle stores.
“Thank you,” the woman said. “It’s been a while since we’ve eaten.” And I started weeping. I wish that I had more to give them. I wish I had been able to do more, but I literally had nothing left (it was a long walk home). But, in that moment, as the little girls smiled at me and waved goodbye, I felt like I was the richest woman in the world.
And I think it’s true. I think when we despair or when we feel bereft or empty, the best thing we can do is to reach out and help someone else. That act, that thought to do something for someone outside of ourselves changes us. It shifts our perspective, and I believe it transforms the universe around us.
The next day I got a job and was able to pay all my bills. I went back to that same spot in Dupont Circle to see if I could locate the woman and her girls, but they were not there. Since then, I’ve done many actions to feed homeless people in DC, and I’ve never seen them again. I like to think that the universe changed for them too. I like to think that they never went hungry again.