I don’t think I’m a good person all the time. I think I try to be as good as I can, sometimes coming up short when I have a rough day or something goes wrong. There are times where I’m just as mean spirited and spiteful as the worst of people, and I often regret my actions when I’m in bed at night. But I try my best to be kind to others, to give when someone needs it, to listen when someone needs to be heard.
When I was younger, I used to try and give the bit of change I had to the homeless I would see walking through the subway cars, sitting by the sides of buildings, resting on park benches. I remember one time I was going home very late and a boy my age with dirty blond hair long and unkempt stopped me and asked if I had a dollar to spare. I reached into my backpack to pull out the few singles I had and handed it over. He seemed so surprised when I gave him the money that he thanked me several times over. I smiled and went down the stairs, hoping I didn’t miss the train.
Although I grew up relatively poor, my mother always did the same thing. If there was money in her purse, then she would hand it over to someone in more need. She once met a man who’d been kicked out his home with his young son. She invited them to our home, gave them something to eat, and began to sift through the remnants of my father’s clothing, the ones he left behind with us. They were a little too big for the man but she packed them away in a little suitcase that he took with tears in his eyes. I looked through my clothes to see if there was anything simple and unisex I could give too. There wasn’t much but the man was thankful anyway. We never saw him or his son again, but I remember my mother waving goodbye from the door as I stared at my mother in awe.
I don’t have the opportunity to give back as much as I would like. Or maybe I just come up with excuses not to give back. I’ve got loans to pay. I live abroad. I can barely keep myself alive, how can I be expected to help others? But I guess I try to make up for my unwillingness in other ways. Give up my seat to someone who looks like they need it. Helping an old man find the cheapest laundry detergent at the supermarket. Answering a survey for a student struggling in their stats class. Donating my clothes as often as possible. Although my money is a little dry, I try.
If I had enough money to give away, I think I would take it back to my neighborhood, or at least my general community. Fight racism, inspire inner-city minority students to keep working hard, to break stereotypes, to prove people wrong. I would want girls to try even harder, to go even further, to be unbreakable. To be true to themselves, whoever that may be, and to fight for the right to be whoever they want to be.
I can’t save the world, and I don’t have enough money to save the world, but I could try. Going back to my roots, to my people, and extending a hand like my mother always has is a good start.