Reflections over Carob Nuggets


Food stamps finally in! Back from famine to feast…Well…Ok, not feast! Lesson learned; if I’m gonna save enough for another venture next year, I need to get better with my money when  I do have it, not just when I don’t…So, at any rate, I made a grocery "luxury run" to Whole Foods, as I do once a month. I’ve gotten better at those, even. Only spent $40 for my all-too small treat bag; rather than my usual $70 haha. $40’s a week’s worth of groceries at Fiesta or HEB, but w/e. Once a month.

No, seriously this time.

So on the way to the bus stop downtown, I walked across a bridge on 6th and came across a homeless guy I’d run into a month back at that very same spot. He asked me for money, but I had nothing for him then (and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a lie). Today was much the same; literally no hard cash on me, and even if he took plastic he would probably be out of luck. He looked TERRIBLE. A month earlier, looking at his face, you could see he’d obviously been on the streets for awhile, but he was coherent, and intelligent. He told me how he had a degree and did not want to be begging, but needed to get by until he could find work. I conversed a bit, but didn’t have anything to offer other than encouragement.

Fast forward to today. His eyes were tired, reddened, lids heavy and drooping, mucus built up in one corner. His lips were slack, and his posture the same. He looked about a decade older, though still not really dirty. Obviously used to keeping himself very clean and neat, but having a difficult time; but his health had clearly suffered. He remembered me though, and asked if I had anything this time around I could spare. Again, the cash situation is threadbare with me and I shook my head…But he didn’t seem to notice and asked if I could get him a hot plate of something. I mulled it over and figured with a bag of groceries, there must be SOMETHING I could give him. So I opened my bagpack and rooted around, passing over the Nori chips…Not very filling. Dagoba chocolate? Maybe…Raw scallops aren’t going to do him any good – until ah! I recalled a bag of carob nuggets I’d started digging into earlier. I fished those out and handed him the bag. 

"What are these?"

"Carob nuggets. Super-healthy energy food…I think they have chocolate powder…carob..nuts. They taste good, too."

He immediately crammed one into his mouth as he extended his free hand out. "Thank you…God bless." Shaking his hand, I asked him "what’s your name?" "Leroy," He responded. "Well Leroy, I hope you enjoy those. See you around!" As I started to walk away, in my peripheral I noticed a young couple walking across the bridge only 10 feet away. I made an instantaneous subconscious decision. I asked him "so Leroy, what is it you say you did? You had a degree, yea?" Leroy, mouth full of carob, responded "cook…carpenter…engineer…miner. Everything. Just been bad, you know?" I nodded, sympathetic-like. "I hear you…I can only hope things get better for you. Enjoy and may those nuggets warm your heart and spirits." (yea, I actually said that).

However, my interior dialogue was quite different:  People! I wonder if they’ll notice my generosity. Better shake his hand again and talk some more…Ego at its purest. Rarely do I get such a clear look at it; I’m surprised I didn’t miss it completely. It bothered me a little as I walked back towards the bus stop. Was I conscious and mindful when I decided to give him those snacks? Was the decision to help him made out of compassion or a subtle manifestation of ego? Or simply guilt, even…Guilt is not compassion. Right? I could have been compassionate UNTIL I saw the other people, but afterwards it was definitely ego driven…

But then I took heart in the fact that I noticed it to begin with. When my mind said "When will karma kick in; will the right bus be immediately around the corner?," I realized what the dhamma means when it says that mind is not ours, or not us; that to meditate is to be the watcher aloof of mind and body and that is our true nature. Such avarice and ego are qualities I find abhorrent; therefore if mind were me, then I would see them as fine. Since mind does not follow my desires, it is no more under my control than my body, and thus, Annata, not-self.

yesterday, went rock climbing, I noticed that when my mind said "this hold is way too hard; the grip is too small. I don’t have the leg strength. I’m tired…I don’t want to climb back down. It’s too far to fall from here!…" It was wrong. Almost always. So at once point, I answered myself back by saying "now that the mind has made itself up, let’s make it happen." And easily 75% of the time; what my mind had given up on before I tried, I was able to do with a bit of a struggle.

Recalling this; two instances of mind’s seeming dominance, my pace was much brisker as I made for the bus. Oh, and the 110 flyer was there within 2 minutes of my arrival.

Categories: musings, Uncategorized

2 comments

  1. Of course we should still want to help people when no one else is looking (and you did), but I think that it’s also important for people to actually see other people being generous–it reminds them to be generous, too.

    As for whether compassion and guilt are the same thing–not quite, but I think that they’re inseparable in a way. We feel guilty about things and we feel compassion for other beings because of empathy, our ability to put ourselves in another person’s place. In that respect, I guess you could say all selfless acts are selfish, because it is our ability to identify ourselves with another that motivates those acts.

    • I had to think hard on that second point, but I think you’re essentially right. The example I was gonna use was someone buying a child ice cream…One does not have to like ice cream to feel motivated to do so. But one does know that ice cream is desirable, and so by your logic, the mind’s actually rewarding itself for that instant of empathy, through compassion.

      Great point; gotta think on this one further!

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