Change Your Outlook on Life for $29

Alternative titles include “HEY LOOK I’m a Good Person!” or “If someone is nice to someone else and doesn’t blog about it, does it still count?”

the value of having moneyThe other day, I was in a foul mood. Seriously foul. I was hungry, hot, tired, and frustrated. I was upset with everyone for no reason. Plain ol’ grumpy. I didn’t want to have my friends over for dinner, even, and that’s my favorite thing on earth. “I have to go to the grocery store and that’s JUST because I’m having friends over!” I thought, grumpily. Walking through the produce section was no better. “Where are the RIPE avocados? Gosh, I guess I will have to MAKE SOMETHING ELSE.”

It’s a good thing I was alone, because I was so inside my head, and unhappy.

I finally figured out what I’d make for dinner (comfort food, because you can’t feed the angry monster anything else!) and checked out.

Walking to my car, I was thinking I’d never get to turn around because I was parked on a busy street. Grumble grumble grumble. I put my groceries in my car, took the cart back, and that’s when I saw him.

He was sitting against the store with a sign near him. He wasn’t holding it, but it was definitely his. He was my age. Dusty. Head in his hands. Tear stains on his cheeks. The sign said he was broke and traveling.

I thought, “I could get in my car now and drive away, or I could go talk to him for a minute.” I waffled. I knew I should go get on with dinner, but I also knew I needed to get out of my head in order to be a good friend and hostess for some of my dearest friends on the planet.

I walked over to him. “Hi,” I said. I realized I was nervous. What do I say now?

He looked up. “What?” he asked, startled, I think, to be talked to at all.

“I… don’t have any cash,” I started, “but are you hungry? Can I get you a sandwich or something?”

He said yes, he was hungry. A sandwich would be great.

“We’re in front of a grocery store. Does anything else sound better?” No, thanks, a sandwich is just fine. Thank you.

“Something to drink? A soda?” Mountain Dew, please.

“I’ll be right back.”

Already feeling a little lighter, I walked back into the store. I went straight for the deli section and got the biggest sandwich they carried. Then the soda, and chips. “That’ll be $9,” said the checker at the deli. I used my debit card, and got cash back. I found napkins and put everything into a little brown bag, hiding the $20 under the sandwich.

When I saw him again, I put the bag down next to him, and said, “I’m very sorry, and I hope your day gets a little better.”

He looked at me and thanked me.

I watched him a little from my car, and saw how happy he was with his … picnic dinner. He didn’t see the cash immediately, but he picked himself up and walked away, hopefully toward a more scenic picnic spot than the busy street.

I floated home on a cloud. The voice in my head reminded me, “all of your problems are first world problems.”

I pulled up to my house, and Brent was right behind me.

“How are you?” he asked, anticipating that the answer would be grump grump grumpy.

I smiled. “I’m great. Really, really great. Can you help me with this one bag of groceries?”

I know that this is nowhere near altruistic, since hello, I’m writing it here (and, full disclosure, I’ve told this story a few times to help people understand that I’m a good person!) and I helped a stranger because I knew it would make me feel better. But if you ever want to change your outlook entirely, find a stranger who needs some kindness, and show them some.

It might be the best way to “blow” $29 I have ever known.


  1. says

    This is an excellent post. I definitely get bogged down in my first world problems sometimes, and it stinks. Way to put things in perspective in a positive, uplifting way!

  2. moneybeagle says

    That's awesome. Good for you. Hopefully it improved his day and hopefully he found the $20 before tossing the bag!

  3. says

    Cynical new yorker checking in! If someone says they're traveling I'll usually give them my sandwich or buy 'em a bagel. The response has been appreciative. Actual homeless folks here don't want food so I've learned not to bother with that (they will throw it away so they can continue asking for money).

    I guess I see so many helpless people every day that giving someone food isn't enough to make me feel like "a good person". I also have grown unsympathetic towards most of this, mainly because seeing it every day you can't break down into tears over every homeless person you see.

  4. BrokeMillennial says

    Like Leslie said, New York can harden you to folks who are in need. However, I always go the food route over giving money, particularly if someone is standing outside a restaurant. It is such a wonderful feeling to help someone out, but it's also hard to justify when to do it because here you see multiple destitute folks day. I wish I could afford to buy everyone a meal. I did know a man who carried around $5 McDonald's gift cards to hand out to folks. I've thought about doing the same.

    • says

      I love the gift card ideas. It gives someone who is homeless a reason to be in a store (and warm or the chance to charge their phone). I carry granola bars in my bag for that same reason (slightly cheaper) and socks are always another great thing to hand out.

  5. says

    What a great, generous gesture! I always tell myself that I'll do something similar but then…not so much. I've had some pretty terrible experiences with people in that situation so it makes me hesitant to actually do something.

    I think maybe I should work on that.

  6. says

    Love this! $29 is a small price to pay to make someone who's down on his luck feel better, even if just for a moment. I'm also totally supportive of your telling everyone this story because you know what? It's inspiring.

  7. says

    I am guilty of being in a bad mood and letting everything get me down sometimes. Thank you for the reminder that sometimes, our issues are so trivial compared to what others are going through. That was sweet of you to help him out!

  8. says

    Not much else in the world can bring you joy like generosity. you made that man's night, heck, probably his week. And you know what, kindness is infections. $29 is a small price to pay for the act of lifting someone's spirits, especially if they've had a rough go of it. And look, it brought you out of a slump as well. Win-Win! :)

  9. jim says

    Very touching and actually very brave too. You had no idea what kind of person you were engaging. Glad it all worked out so nicely.

  10. krantcents says

    To feed someone who is hungry is always a generous gesture. I volunteer with an organization who feed the homeless. It is much rewarding than just writing a check.

  11. deardebt says

    Helping others when you are in a foul mood is always the best way to go! It instantly puts you in a better mood, because you get some fresh perspective that your life isn't really all that bad and your problems are miniscule in comparison to others.

  12. says

    That made me teary haha. I've been in those absolute total crap moods before, and honestly it's all a bunch of crap because someone else, somewhere else is in some kind of a real mess. I loved this story.

  13. says

    This post almost made me cry. Again, reinforcing that there are wonderful, loving people out there! He was so blessed to have you walk by…and your kindness will always be remembered-by him.

  14. says

    That's awesome, just the other day I was at a local pizza restaurant and two teenagers were eating pizza, while a third was sitting staring at them, I gave him two bucks to get a slice of his own. He gave me the biggest smile and said thank you. It's nice to give back.

  15. Popoki says

    Love this! I just discovered your blog today, and I also love your style of writing. My in-laws are Portlanders, and my husband grew up there. Looking forward to reading more from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>