Don’t let the world harden your heart

The other night I had to make a quick run to Wally World to grab a few things for supper. As I was walking in there were two men sitting outside with a bucket collecting money. They did not say anything or hassle me – pleading their case.  

I was in such a hurry, I barely glanced at the bucket. I just looked at one of the guys and told him that I did not have any cash, but I would bring some back out. He just nodded and in I went.  

I went in to grab a couple of things, so I just grabbed a basket. Of course, during my shopping I came across like 20 other things I decided that I needed and just forgot about. When I finally made it to the self-checkout, I was definitely regretting not getting a buggy.  

I ended up spending $100 dollars easily and had bags stacked up and down my arms wondering how in the world I was going to manage to get this out to my car without dropping anything.  

I remembered the guy outside and even though I spent way more than I initially planned, when the machine asked me if I wanted cash back, I clicked “yes.” 

It gave me five options: $20, $40, $60, $80 or $100.  

I was definitely thinking I would just get maybe $10 out, but since these were my only options, I clicked the $20. I had made a little extra that week and I told the guy I would bring cash out.  

I am not going to lie and say that the idea of clicking the no cash back option occurred to me. I would walk out and tell him that I forgot. I am sure that is what most people said anyways. Or maybe they just walked by with their heads down hoping they would not notice them. I also briefly considered walking out the exit on the other side and making a trek across the parking lot to get to my car.  

But like I said, I made a little extra this week and I made the decision to keep my word even though it was a little more than I planned to give.  

I walked out of my original entrance with my arms full of groceries and managed to stuff the $20 into the bucket. Again, the guy said nothing.  

As I finished loading my groceries into my car and got in, I saw one of the Wally World managers walk out and begin talking to the men. I rolled my window down and caught the end of the discussion. She was telling them that she had received some complaints and that they did not get permission to be out there collecting money in the first place.  

As I walked out, still I never took the time to read what the money was for.  

But they just nodded at the manager and began folding up their tables and chairs. Again, I never heard them say a word. 

Her reaction to them made me think that it may be something sketchy or maybe they did not speak English or maybe it was completely legit, and they just did not know they needed permission. Afterall, people do it all the time.  

I have heard numerous people tell me of stories where they gave a homeless person some money just to witness them go inside and spend it on a pack of cigarettes or a can of beer instead of food or clothes. I guess it upset them.  

As soon as that $20 left my hand I would have never given it a second thought if I had not overheard the conversation as I left. But this did make me think… but not about what the money would be used for (that is between them and God at this point), but how hardened and closed off the world has come to helping others.  

I completely get it. Especially when there are some people out there who lie about helping a child walking down a road at nighttime and then they disappear into thin air, making the whole country question whether or not it is even safe to pull over and help the most vulnerable of humankind.  

But I refuse to let the way of the world change who I am as a person.  

If I have some extra money and think I can help, I am going to. If I see a child wandering along a busy highway alone at night, I am going to stop. If I overhear or witness someone being taken advantage of or bullied, I am going to step in.  

I will not think of the negative outcomes or automatically assume the worst. And I hope that if I am ever in a situation where I need money or help, that someone would be willing to step in for me.  

I read this blog titled, “I Wrote This for You,” pretty often. The author Iain Thomas said this in one of his publications, “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place” 

Don’t let the way of the world harden your heart. Be the outlier. Be soft.

(Paige Nash is a wife, mom, digital journalist for Webster Parish Journal and publisher of Bienville Parish Journal and Claiborne Parish Journal.)