THE BLOG
05/10/2011 12:24 pm ET | Updated Jul 10, 2011

Learning to Give Freely

You brush past them every day on the sidewalk, drive past them at the end of the onramp to the freeway. The homeless.

Without having a conversation with them, you know exactly how they got that way. Drug addicts. Alcoholics. Uneducated people who failed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Scam artists who choose not to bathe and let their teeth go to hell so they can live a life of luxury based on the quarters they collect every day.

You employ whatever judgment you conjure up that helps you reduce their humanity to the point that they become invisible.

I am guilty of it. I don't always help. I come up with excuses for my own behavior. I am busy. I can't take 30 seconds. I don't have any cash on me. I don't want to talk to them. If I give them my hard-earned money, they will spend it frivolously and as a result it will be wasted.

But if I give freely, what do I care? If I choose to give, it is the recipient's responsibility to be responsible with the gift received. If they make other choices, I still did the right thing.

And regardless, they are people. They have names. They live a life here on the planet with us. They have a story.

The other day I stopped at a Starbucks. An older man smiled a practically toothless little grin at me and opened the door. I've seen him there before. I recognized his face. I've brushed past him every time. But today I wasn't in such a tailspin that I couldn't help, and I had cash on me.

As soon as I purchased my coffee, I brought him a dollar then went back inside to add some sugar and cream. I watched him through the window watching people moving past at lightning speed -- dropping their glance so they wouldn't make eye contact with him at all and chance a conversation. Watching him politely open the doors for everyone coming into the coffee shop whether they acknowledged him or not.

I thought about my kids and wondered -- if they'd been there with me, would I have treated him any differently to set an example of compassion? My little consciences. I would. And since they weren't there to learn firsthand a story would have to do.

On the way back out the door, I asked his name.

He looked down and said, "My name is Lloyd."

I bent over to look up into his face to regain eye contact with him and said, "Well, Lloyd, what are you asking people money for? What do you want to do with it?"

Lloyd said, "I want to get a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich because I'm hungry."

I said, "I don't have another dollar on me but I do have a debit card. Can I get you something from the McDonald's next door?"

Lloyd smiled and said, "That would be really nice."

We walked over to the McDonald's and chatted along the way. He had four teeth. He hadn't showered in a while. He said no one ever really talks to him other than to say the word "No." He said he was lonely.

Once inside the McDonald's, I asked him what he wanted from the menu. He said, "Ma'am, you know what? Since this is a treat I would really, really love a vanilla shake if you don't mind. I haven't had one in a long time. It's hot today."

I ordered Lloyd's vanilla shake. People were staring at us. Not sure what to make of all this. His smell wasn't mixing so great with the smell of french-fries and burgers either. I asked the cashier to give me two $10 gift cards as well on the sly without Lloyd noticing.

When the milkshake appeared, I handed it to Lloyd, along with the cards and the receipt of purchase in case he had any trouble when he came back. He literally jumped up and down -- right there, in front of everyone. He kissed me on the cheek, gave me a smelly little hug and said, "I didn't ask you what your name is."

I said, "Shelley. And Lloyd, it is a pleasure to meet you. I hope you have a blessed day."

I might never see Mr. Lloyd again but he blessed my life. I changed his world a little bit and he changed mine. And while I might not take advantage of every opportunity that pops up like this for whatever reason, I have to say with regard to giving -- I'm Lovin' It.