Now I am deliriously happy about the cold weather we’ve been having, but I still didn’t want pizza sitting in my trash can indefinitely. Even if it didn’t get all ookey, it would serve as my tell-tale heart for the sin of wasting food. But no problem, because I was going to the gym, right? I would just find a public outdoor trash can and dump the illicit pizza there.
Drove on over to the gym, and finally saw the homeless guy. I’d seen his sleeping bag on the sidewalk before, but this was the first time I saw the man himself. Well: it was a nice resolution for the pizza dilemma. I walked over and offered him the leftovers. He was in bad shape — speech difficulties, unbathed, some kind of skin disease, and it was nineteen goddam degrees outside. He doesn’t even have a tent.
I offered him the pizza. Then I went inside the gym and cried for the whole workout. Tried to vent some of the horribleness into the weights. I lifted heavier than I ever have before, stretched deeper than I ever have before, and drove my heartrate up into frankly dangerous territory on the bike.
And even typing this I’m kind of disgusted with myself. Look how I’m casting it: oh no, I saw a homeless man and it made me sad, I had to go and work out EXTRA HARD because I was so SAD, it’s so difficult being me, I actually CRIED while I worked out, please notice how SENSITIVE I am.
Because it’s all about me, not about the man who might freeze to death.
It was this time last year that I started volunteering at the homeless shelter in Asheville. I miss working there. That experience made me a better person.
To be clear: before I started volunteering, I already had compassion and sympathy and perspective. You probably do, too. Some people are either 1.) shits or 2.) very sheltered, but the rest of us care about our fellow human beings and can practice basic empathy. Volunteering at the homeless shelter did not teach me the true meaning of Christmas. I was already pretty good on that count.
Volunteering forced me to grow. It forced me to do uncomfortable things. It forced me to act responsibly in dangerous situations and to rein in my own unflattering tendencies — shyness, anxiety, irritability, timidity. My morals were already in fine shape; my ability to apply abstract morality to real life was not.
Somehow it is December already. I do not understand how this happened. I’ll try to post again this year, but even if I get too busy with holidays and work and other personal endeavors, I promise I’ll have my annual Book Rundown posted on 1 January. Won’t be as impressive as I’d like (it’s amazing how holidays and work and personal endeavors can interfere with reading time), but though I don’t write here as often as I’d like, I can at least deliver the goods on the new year.