The Least and The Most

I once read something that said that the rich stay rich by never giving anything away.  Does that mean that the poor remain poor by giving everything away?  Is generosity a trait that is only possessed by those with less?  I’ve thought about this a lot… It seems that those with the least are more apt to give more. But, why?

The most adorable elderly woman offered me some of her cup of ice cream today.  Her worldly possessions were so few.  She is living out her days in a facility, her clothing obviously second hand and her only access to food is what she is given.  Yet, as she smiled at me with biggest toothless grin, she lifted up her white plastic spoon and offered me a few bites.  She seemed so disappointed when I told her that I was ok.  My friend with her disheveled white hair and trembling hands was more upset with my rejection of her food than she was with the cup load of pills that her nurse brought in.  While I was not there to visit her as she is not a hospice patient, she became the subject of my thoughts.  Why is it that when you have nothing it is everything that you want to give?

His apartment was so sparse.  It was in a neighborhood that even during the day most would be scared.  The furniture consisted of a cot and two of those hard plastic chairs that could normally be found on a porch.  The windows were so old that as the wind blew, the whistling melody echoed.  He had become a hospice patient because for years he was unable to pay for his medications and his condition deteriorated to an irreversible state.  The irony is that now that he is in hospice, all of his medications are paid for.  His long hair was tied in a pony tail as he sat shirtless on his makeshift bed.  

As I sat on the cold chair, I noticed a small kitten eating from a worn plastic container on the windowsill.  The matching plastic container was filled with water, which the kitten enjoyed soon after.  The patient started telling us about how neighborhood kids found sport in tossing rocks at the numerous stray cats.  His stories were stopped only by his need to catch his elusive breath.  He talked about how he doctored multiple cats back to health because they would come to his window crying.  The heartbreaking part was that he admitted that there were times he would forego buying food for himself in order to be able to provide for all of the homeless pets.  “At least I have a roof over my head, ” he said nodding his head, “my belly might grumble, but it does it indoors.  They have no food and no shelter.  I can go a night here or there without food.”

Perhaps it is because those with little know what it is like to have nothing and they want no one else to feel that way.  It was like a video I recently saw… a man was conducting a social experiment and gave a homeless man $500.  He stealthily followed and captured his moves on video.  Fully expecting the man to go to the liquor store and buy mass amounts of alcohol, the cynical man was speechless when he saw the events.  The homeless man went and bought food, drinks and shirts for his fellow homeless folk.  He literally spent all of the given money taking care of others.  People talk about charity and write a check, but charity is what this man with nothing actually did.  If you have nothing, you can’t miss what you do not know about, but, you do know the pain of not having.  It’s just so ironic and painfully beautiful that those with nothing are willing to give everything.

By Helen Haddick BSN RN CHPN

RN who has just left critical care in the hospital for hospice. Join me for my journey Please feel free to leave comments and like if you enjoy this

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