I prefer to walk downtown here in LA most of the time. As a result, I frequently come across people down on their luck asking for change. I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea or not, but I almost always stop to talk to them. At the very least, I try to hear what they say to me before I make my decision to give change or not (99% of the time I don’t have any money on me, so it’s usually not a hard decision). On several occasions, I have come away from such exchanges with more than I had going in. I’ll give two examples from just today and last night.
Last night, I met a street performer (he liked to sing). I never got his name. I was walking with my friend, Christina, to a nearby bar to sit and socialize with friends. The man called from far away asking, “are you from LA?” Mandy, understandably, didn’t go out of her way to address the man. But I did. I’m not sure why, but I always do. I said, “No I’m not. How did you know?” I was surprised that he could spot a non-native so skillfully. Later I came to the thought that he must have had some sort of procedure no matter what the response to his question. He asked, “is she your sister?” I said that she wasn’t. He asked, “So you’re trying to hook it up, then?” I said she was just a friend. He started a song, I think. But then he said something that was really inspiring. He said, “You can look up the word ‘friend’ in every dictionary you want, but they will never say the real meaning of friendship.” His eloquence was hard to contextualize in the moment, but it really struck me. He then asked if I would like for him to sing a song, insisting that he “doesn’t beg.” I said I couldn’t, and caught up with the others.
Today, I met a man named Bob. He was a really chipper character. He would just say, “Have a great weekend!” to anyone who walked by. I admired his confidence and cheerful attitude. I was wearing a black T-shirt, so he said to me, “only the good guys wear black!” referencing an old Chuck Norris movie. I said, “You know, my name is actually Chuck.” he said it was a good name, and that his was B-O-B Bob. I shook his hand and said, “it’s nice to meet you Bob.” Bob said, “Have a great weekend, and if you can spare anything, I’d appreciate it.” I told him that I hoped he had a good weekend too, but that I didn’t have any cash. He looked at me and said, “Stopping to talk is consideration too. I really appreciate that.” Again, I felt like I had walked away with more that I had. You might ask, “more of what?” but I don’t think I could answer that.