Charity

At the doctor’s office, the other morning, I got the prescriptions to refill, and I wandered on into my downtown San Antonio drug store. Historic site, too, for not that it’s any big deal.

I joked with the pharmacy tech, as I’ve observed, and used in a horoscope before, there are two service people in our lives that we shouldn’t anger, the people who serve us food and the people who hand us narcotics.

That was based upon an interaction where the guy in line before me was upset since he couldn’t get his prescription filled. (Only allowed so many hard-core pain meds in a week — he’d already gone through his monthly allotment and there were still ten days to go… Junkie jonesin’.)

Be nice to people who handle your Class A narcotics and food servers.

Aquarius (pharmacy tech), and, for that matter, Aquarius Pharmacist.

I stand at the line, right where I’m supposed to until I get waved over. Usually friendly and I tend to evoke a slightly avuncular air, not reality, but reality departed days ago. I handed her the prescription, the coupon, the frequent flyer card, the insurance card, and then I promised them (Aquarius & Aquarius) a first-born male child. Presumably mine. The one, she chuckled.

She looked up furtively with the big, brown Latina eyes, explained that it would be about 20 minutes, and then I asked if I could step next door for a minutes, get a hot dog, and then come back?

“Can you get me an un-sweet ice tea?”

I nodded yes, smiled, then I waved off her proffered two dollars.

She’s merely a clerk, a minor functionary, and really, could be swapped out for any one of a number of other faces, but I feel a kinship, and she was always friendly, polite and kind towards me. I prefer my social interactions that way.

The requisite “Please, thank-you, yes-sir,” all that is in place. Big brown eyes, flashing white teeth against the burnished skin, she wears scrubs, so no prurient notices other than what the imagination can fill in, and to me, a slight pleading with the request for some un-sweet tea (1).

Out on the street, down the block towards the hot dog place, a rather scruffy — apparently homeless — man begged a dollar, or whatever change I could spare. I have an internal guidance against giving money to beggars. He looked fit and dirty, that faint aromatic blend of street, vomit and urine (with an over-arching stale beer in the blend). Pleading eyes with hard edge, and dull, maybe listless gleam.

Perhaps two or three days before, in the pre-dawn light, he’d been sleeping at a spot under the Commerce Street Bridge, Riverwalk, a spot that the river cops and park police miss, so the homeless label probably fit.

I demurred and politely declined. I bought a rose from a guy on the freeway one time, but no, I don’t usually give money to strangers. Not where I chose to expend my charity.

The juxtaposition between the two, though, hit a nerve within me. The internal alarm went off. I mulled the idea over, answered an e-mail about Mercury Retrograde, and sat in a momentary funk.

Stupid moral compass.

Is it wrong, what I was doing? Extending charity in one place and plainly refusing it in another?

    (1) Prior to an extended stay in South Texas, I rarely encountered “sweet or un-sweet” as binary question. Raised in Austin, the tea was iced, bereft of sweeteners, except, of course, Threadgill’s “hippie tea,” which was a mint-hibiscus with a primary ingredient of sugar — a sad fact that I didn’t discover until later. In South Texas, the standard is sweet tea, which is plain, white sugar added to make a syrup-like tea. Tasty, to many, but not my cup of tea. Tea, like coffee, now that it is summer? Coffee should be cold and bitter.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • rhubarb Apr 19, 2012 @ 8:46

    I’ve struggled with the street charity issue myself. In the end, I have decided that it would be better to give to someone who truly needs it (and risk giving money to someone who will drink/drug it up), than to pass by the truly needy because (your choice of excuses–giving money to be pissed away, being scammed, encourages a certain life style, whatever).

    When I finally have to answer for my life’s choices to a higher power, when my karma is weighed out for my next incarnation (whatever your imaginations conjures for the end-of-life experience), I want to be able to say I did what I could without passing judgment on the recipient (as much as that is humanly possible).

    I don’t want it on my conscience that someone could say, “I asked for help but went hungry when she had plenty to eat.”

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