No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Maybe I should have gone with the ham?

Maybe I should have gone with the ham?

“No good deed goes unpunished.” My old broadcast partner used to slip in that phrase every now and then.  The other day, I lived it.

To begin, I love the holiday season and, as they go, this was one of the better ones.  Very little drama or conflict, lots of fun and merry-making, the kind of holiday season you’d imagine should be standard equipment.

So, when we were out running errands the day after Christmas, I found myself moved. Appreciative. We walked into a grocery store and a scruffy-looking kid (somewhere in his 20s, I suppose) blurted out, “Got any change?”   We kept walking and I replied, “No thank you.”   I like doing that. It confuses them.

But while in the store, I got to thinking how great this Christmas had been.  Not so much about the things that go with it, but the experiences.  Seeing the kids, the grand-kids, spending time with friends.  So, it just seemed like it would be a perfect gesture to buy that guy standing outside the store a sandwich.  One I would love to get, but it possibly could be the most decent food he would see all day.  I went with a turkey and Havarti on a whole grain roll, purchased it at the check stand and headed out the door.

The guy was still there.  I handed him the sandwich, said, “Here you go. Enjoy!”  He slipped the sandwich inside his shirt and without missing a beat said, “Got a buck?”  As I walked away, I told him, “I just gave you a sandwich.”  As I continued to walk away, he let me have it: “F-bomb this, something, something, something, asshole.”

I wanted to turn around and remind him of what a loser he was, how ungrateful he was, that he was nothing but a big leach on society and….

Well, no matter. Victoria and I theorize that he was probably on drugs, just looking for that next fix.  Confronting him could have been dangerous and probably wouldn’t have done any good anyway.  Sigh.

Now, my Christmas buzz had been extremely harshed. For the next hour, no matter what topic we discussed, I would cap it off with “Or I could give them a sandwich.”

I’ve long said that the people outside the stores, by the freeway on-ramps, in the homeless encampments need real help. Serious help. When I hear of all the effort being put into providing meals or sandwiches for them, I admire the compassion, but it’s not helping them get out of their situation.

I don’t have the golden solution, but I do know that help comes to those who help themselves. Because of that little encounter outside of a grocery store, I’ve been cured for a while.  The next time I even think about buying a sandwich for a homeless person, I’ll remember that moment.  I’ll then fight off the tendency to do something nice and do what we all normally do–just look the other way.

Too bad.

“No good deed goes unpunished.”  Truer words were never spoken. If Bruce was closer, I’d take him a sandwich.

Happy New Year!

Tim Hunter

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