“Hey man, can I wash your windows for you for a couple of bucks?” The tall and athletically built black man with shaved greying hair asked me. His well kept but aging clothes matched the expression of his face. Both had seen a lot of wear, but despite the years, care had been taken to preserve the dignity of both. The dirty rag and squirt bottle of blue liquid seemed it would leave more grime on the window that it would remove. The gas station that Mark and I stopped at was right off the freeway, but in a neighborhood known for its hard streets and jaded residents.

“I’ll give you some money, but you don’t have to wash the windows,” I said. But, in an attempt to show his character and maintain his pride, he asked, “Can I at least do the front window?” He may not have had a job other than what he was doing, but he was out here doing it—wanting to be able to hold his head high at the end of the day. My well intended charity was not what he desired or what he was willing to receive.

Mark and I were rushing back from the Regional Gymnastics Championships in order to make it through the snowy Donner Pass, and to make it to practice on time. At Regionals, a fellow coach gave me a couple hundred dollars in cash, and I was looking for an appropriate way to honor his generosity and put his philanthropy to good use. Don’t get me wrong; if I needed it at that moment, I would have used it. But, I am always trying to look for where the greatest good can be done.

I asked DJ, “You live around here?” He told me that his wife, kids, and he had become stranded here and were living in a hotel. He didn’t know what to do. The hotel was a flee bag, but it was only $50 a night. The owners of the gas station were kind enough to allow him to wash peoples windows in order to care for his family.

After he washed our window, he began asking the next customer for permission to wash theirs. I walked up to him, thanked him, and did the traditionally “manly” thing to do to save a persons ego. Part of “man code” is when you give another money; you disguise it with a handshake. While palming the bills, I shook the man’s hand and thus transfer the money, our mutual respect, and allowed DJ to keep his self-esteem intact.

DJ in return, he being a gentleman that he was, didn’t count it or even look at it, but merely slipped it into his pocket and went to help the next person.

As Mark and I drove away, I was so excited. I too know what it is like to live at the behest of other’s generosity. I know how wonderful it is to try to do the “right thing” and watch the Universe show up and aid you when you really need it. I was so excited for DJ for that moment of “relief” that would wash over him. So excited to empathically feel the tension ease when later he examined the contents of his pocket to find what my friend at regionals had been kind enough to share. That the cycle of kindness had ensured that DJ’s family would be housed and safe for yet another four days.

Cynically, some may say that he might have been a con man. That he really didn’t have a family, and that that money would go to booze or drugs. Perhaps. But what do you want to believe about people? Do you want to believe that people are the worst of what they can be or the best? I think more than anything that these thoughts are a reflection upon the potential giver. Even if it was a 100:1 shot that he was telling the truth, isn’t it worth it to love to your fellow man?

Mark and I had just left a casino where people were gambling against odds of 100:1…and loosing. I chose to put all the money I possessed in the world on a horse named DJ. No matter what DJ did with the money…DJ won. I won. DJ knows that someone out there really loves him, really cares for him. I gave all the money I had, I bet it all on DJ—and I won.

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