I felt guilty yesterday, as I walked past a young woman who was just setting up her spot on the overpass along the Las Vegas Strip. She opened her cardboard sign just as I passed her.
was written in black marker across the top.
I was racked with guilt. Immediately, I was overcome with thoughts, “How can you be walking past her in these boots, when she has nothing?
“You shouldn’t be spending money when others can’t. You should give them more money.”
“How could you agree to let him buy that bag for you when so many are going hungry on the streets?”
“You don’t deserve this.”
I held it all in, tension growing in my body throughout the day. Even my attitude toward my daughter changed and I became even more impatient. My guilt was manifesting physically and affecting my life.
As we were driving, our daughter fell asleep in the backseat and we had time to chill. As we pulled up to a stop light, an older man on the corner got our attention and opened his cardboard sign. We gave him some money. This is not uncommon for us. We often give to the homeless in various ways.
As we pulled away, I told my husband about my guilt.
He said, “We help when we can and sure, lots of people really are there because they had no other choice, but many are there because of the choices they made. We very well could have been there.”
We also chatted about a guy we know who moved to Vegas to panhandle, because he makes so much more money here than he did in Cincinnati. He has a nice apartment and is doing very well. So well that he asked if he could buy us dinner. Not every person on the street is homeless.
My husband wasn’t saying any of this to diminish the needs of others. There is a very urgent need for people who truly are living on the street, regardless of why they’re there. He was speaking to my guilt and I believe he’s right.
Why do I feel guilty because I stopped using drugs and getting messed up every day? I could have continued and I could have ended up on the streets just like the next user?
Why do I feel guilty because my husband has worked his ass off for over twenty-years at a job he loves and manages his money very well and we can buy nice things?
Would I expect someone else to feel guilty for this? Of course not.
Trying to live a happy life while carrying around unnecessary guilt is like walking with gum on the sole of your shoe. It’s just not going to work out well.
There is no reason for guilt. There IS reason for gratitude and I’m so glad my husband reminded me of this.
It’s easy to get caught up in what we’re not doing. It’s easy to get stuck in a negative thought cycle – in this case: “I don’t deserve the life I’m living.”
It’s so easy to think we’re not enough, we’re not doing enough, we’re never going to be worthy enough….but I think that’s Evil talking. I think that our inner prosecutor talking.
I don’t think that’s Love.
It’s not Love when we give out of guilt.
It’s not Love when we berate ourselves.
It’s not Love.
In giving and receiving.