Well I was going to give another installment continuing on with what I began last week but events of the week have changed my course as they often do.
Let’s see there is my ongoing angst about giving money to panhandlers, my decision to celebrate lent by giving up soda and coffee, in addition to my realization that I did have an abundance of money to get an oil change done on my car. Now maybe these issues have nothing to do with anything but I think in some ways they are all marks of some sort of spiritual growth.
My route home from work takes me under an overpass and at the end of the over pass is a stop sign and a place where the homeless panhandle for money. Sometimes months go by and no one is there and other times, there are varying groups or individuals there every day for weeks. Lately there has been this older guy with a bike. His little sign says he is a homeless veteran.
Now I have given money to panhandlers in the past. I work downtown and sometimes there is one (or several) on every street you walk. There is one street that is especially busy because it is a major high traffic area. There have been times I have been moved to give. Usually I do what everyone else does, just ignore when they ask. Some are more aggressive than others and sometimes you just give out of fear. Unfortunately, there have been people who have been hurt when they have said no to a homeless person asking for money. One time an elderly homeless guy asked for change. I had a change purse bursting at the seams so I just pulled out my change purse and emptied it in his hand. He was pleasantly surprised and I got rid of extra weight in my bag, a win-win for us both!
I am troubled though because I wonder if I am really helping them out or I am just enabling a person to continue down an already bleak path. Sometimes I wonder if I am working against some greater work if I give money and I wonder the same thing if I don’t. I consider myself a somewhat compassionate, caring person so this whole issue does trouble me deeply at times.
It occurred to me today as I was out and about that maybe I need to re-frame my thoughts about this issue. Maybe I don’t have to worry about if I am helping them at all or if I am part of a greater work of the universe. In other words, forget the big picture and just focus on the moment. Maybe in just that moment of giving money to a homeless man, it can be a meditation to remember that whatever wrapping we come in we are all on a journey and in the end we all wind up returning to where we came from. Maybe I can view it as a moment of mindfulness in an otherwise routine day. A reminder that we are all expressions of the Divine. After all it really isn’t about the money, as I will explain later. I am coming to realize I have plenty of money.
The Great Lent Experiment
I was raised Catholic. My mother was and is a devoted Catholic. Fortunately, she never forced me to follow her into the faith and in my later teenage years I become a born again Christian. For many years I didn’t really think about things like Lent. Most Evangelical Christians don’t celebrate lent but in the last several years that is changing to varying degrees. Several years ago, I felt moved to attend an Ash Wednesday service and I enjoyed it so much, I began trying in small ways to observe this season. Some years I do very little and other years a lot. This year is one of my big ones.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lent, let me give you the basics. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter. Giving up something for lent is seen as a way of identifying with the sufferings of Christ, I guess you could say that it is a sort of active meditation. On Easter Sunday you can then go back to doing whatever it is you gave up. Simple enough unless what you decide to give up is something you really enjoy.
So this year, I had not really planned on doing anything, but on the spur of the moment I decided to do something I had been entertaining for awhile now. I decided to give up coffee and soda for lent. Yes my friends, I am walking away from my Vanilla Lattes and Diet Pepsi in the intention of giving them up for good. However, I am just focused on lent. Lent is 40 days and most of us can do something for at least 40 days. Right?…Hopefully?….Maybe??
I think there is very powerful spiritual energy related to lent. After all it is a season of reflection and hope for renewal so why not use that energy to help myself give up two things that I need to cut back on at the very least. I will never say that I will never ever have another soda or drink another coffee. However, I do not want to go back to drinking them as regularly as I did. Oddly enough, I miss the soda more than the coffee which is a bit of a surprise. The Great Lent Experiment continues, I don’t think it has been a week yet so I will have to keep you posted on the progress.
On a side note, I am drinking more tea and so I went to Hina’s Tea here in downtown Sacramento and asked about a tea for those transitioning from coffee. The owner was there and recommended a tea, as soon as I try it I will let you know how I like it. If you like tea please give Hina’s a bit of your business. Independent business owners need all the help they can get. They have a fan page on Facebook and a website. Check them out.
Money & Perspective
So on to a subject that has lately twisted my brain in ways I never thought possible. It all started because I wanted to get my car into the shop for routine maintenance. I thought, ok, no worries I will take in over the weekend and get it taken care of. The next thought that took place was a quick little vision of my bank balance and I thought, I can’t do it, I don’t have enough. All of a sudden it occurs to me that I do have a savings account and there is more than enough money to do what I need to do. Then a battle gets going about how I shouldn’t spend the money, I just need to leave that money alone. Then I realized “well, isn’t this why I have a savings?” I have this reserve to take care of things like car repairs. I wasn’t spending the whole thing, just a small portion for car repairs.
It got me thinking about my perspective about money and how I view it. I started thinking about my overall financial picture. I realized that I am actually doing responsible, good things with my money. I have two savings, an IRA, 401K and my checking account. When I looked at that, I realized I really do have a nice amount of money saved. Now can I book a whirlwind cruise around the world? No, but can I get a small car repair done? Yes! Not only that but if something came up, I did have the resources to help take care of it. As it turns out I could have probably paid for the car repair without the savings but I was glad that I was able to pay without stressing about where the money would come from.
Do I still have some debt? Yes. Could I be doing things better? Yes. However, what I realized that I may not be able to finance a whim like a whirlwind vacation but I can take care of what needs to be taken care of and even have a little something left over to have a little fun with. In other words, my needs are provided for and even a few of my wants so why am I stressing about it?
If money is truly energy, I have a good amount of energy going on so my ongoing dilemma is how do I get what I know to be true to be a more natural mindset than the “I don’t have enough” mindset that I tend to default to. This is where my brain starts to hurt! Truth is I don’t know other than whenever I think of myself as not having enough, I need to remind myself that I have more than enough. Not sure if this means I will give to the panhandler but I would hope that if I do, I can see it as a illustration of the abundance I do have rather than stressing about if I have enough.
Well, that is my rather eventful week. Some insights that may or may not be profound. However, I find it a sign of growth that I am asking questions that need to be asked and trying to find answers that transcend the reality I see with the naked eye. I may find myself raiding the local CVS for every diet Pepsi on the shelf or I may just sit with my discomfort and see what happens. Who knows I just may give some money to the panhandler and find that I don’t miss or notice what I give, I just give. Whatever happens I find myself filled with gratitude that I may have taken some important steps forward on my journey.
Until next time friends, Namaste.