Tonight as I was heading home, I finalized plans for an impromptu happy hour with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. It wasn't anything fancy, we were just meeting up at my place for a glass of wine and whatever I could manage to find to eat. Knowing there wasn't much the in cupboards, I made a quick decision to stop at a little market to pick up some nacho stuff (I had wanted to go to Mexican place so I was still craving the food.)
As I was heading into the shop, I noticed this woman with a sign near the door:
"Pregnant mother of two. Just lost my job. Anything helps!"
Now, as a big city resident who uses public transportation and works in the heart of downtown, I see these signs daily. I'm asked pretty much every time I leave my office if I can spare some change. And I'll be honest, I don't. I choose to donate my money in other ways. But this woman, who couldn't be more than a few years older than me, made an impact on me. I smiled and said, sorry, I don't have any change, as I jetted into the store to look for some non-nutritional, non-essential items.
While I was contemplating which salsa to buy, I started thinking about her. I was thankful that my hubby and I both have good jobs that afford the basics and the little luxuries we cherish so much. I didn't need to be in that store buying nacho ingredients, but I was, because I could. So I got a couple of bucks for my change, folded them up and walked out of the store.
I smiled and handed her the money. She smiled, got a little misty, and said, "Thank you so much!" I got a little misty and headed to my car. As I was getting in, something caught my eye. I turned around to see that she was SMOKING!!!
I think my mouth actually dropped. I was outraged that 1) she was smoking while pregnant and 2) that the money I had just given her could possibly be used to buy more cigarettes. I should have taken that money to buy some food (which was my first instinct - some apples, and milk or something but decided cash was better). While it was only $3, it still outraged me to see her endangering her unborn child's' health (and I'm guessing she smokes around her young kids too).
I think if I see her again, perhaps I'll remind her about Washington's state law that prohibits people from smoking within 25 feet of an open door, window or ventilation system, meaning she'll have to do her smoking and panhandling in the middle of Phinney Way. Perhaps she'll think about it twice then!