Open My Heart But Just Enough

This morning I managed to pull it together to go to the gym before work. I plan to do this approximately four days a week and succeed twice a month, tops. After much naval contemplation and agony over my sock selection, I was out the door.

I was halfway to the subway when this guy stopped me and asked if I knew the neighborhood. Usually when people try to talk to me on still dark sidewalks, I ignore them and keep walking, but I can never ignore that question. I love to knowledgeably give information like a real New Yorker. But then he asked me where the nearest hospital that provided formula for infants was and I realized I don’t know the neighborhood that well. He went on to explain that he’d moved here with his wife from Jamaica and their new baby and his wife couldn’t breast feed because she has some medical condition that he named but I don’t remember and that no hospitals did the formula program on Fridays that he could find and he wasn’t looking for money and America has it backwards in terms of how to take care of people here and then sorry if he offended me about America but maybe could I go with him to the nearest pharmacy and buy two little cans of formula, they were only $8.40 which was a lot but maybe if I could just help him and he had walked all the way from 196th street and I was the first person who stopped for him. The Micro Machine man has nothing on this guy.

I have no idea whether or not this was a scam. History has proven I am an easy mark. Once during Youth Theatre rehearsal, this guy came into our studio and told a heartbreaking story about a terrible week that had left him homeless. I rushed to give him a dollar while most of my fellow actors just stared at their hands. After he left, I looked around, taken aback that they hadn’t risen to the occasion and one of my friends blurted out, “He came in with that exact same story last month.” Then I just felt ashamed of my own gullibility.

I did not go to the pharmacy with the gentleman this morning. Knowing the neighborhood, as I do, the nearest open pharmacy was half a mile away and the window to get to the gym and work on time was quickly closing. I gave him the cash that I had on me, enough to buy a can of formula, and went into the subway. I couldn’t walk away from the idea that maybe there was a hungry baby who didn’t have food but I also didn’t have, or take, the time to slow down and help my fellow human. I don’t know what would have been the right thing to do. My quads are rock hard, but now I feel both guilty and foolish.

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