What Is An Apple Worth?

I work in New York City, home to a huge homeless population. Some of the homeless live in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, while others may live in a shelter, and hit the trains all day to beg for food or money.

I was on the 1 train headed back to Port Authority when a pregnant woman boarded the train. She announced that she was homeless and currently living in a shelter. Beside me was a bag from the grocery store. It contained three apples and a used wrapper from an energy bar. I gave her one of the apples and she smiled and thanked me. The look in that woman’s eyes was one of astonishment. I doubt that she expected anyone to give her something so quickly.

Then an interesting thing happened. Others on the train began to reach for their wallets. I guess they were waiting for someone to do it first. It is so funny to me that we will wait to be generous. What are we waiting for?

In that moment, it dawned on me that that apple was worth far more than what I paid for it. It also got me thinking about generosity and paying it forward. Being in a city that moves as fast as New York always does, it can be hard to stop and look around. People sit on the train with earbuds in, effectively shutting the world out, losing that chance to show a fellow human some compassion.

If you are interested in helping the homeless, there are many great charities and food drives you can participate in. One I found really interesting was the “Punish Geoff” drive that featured a series of punishments for Geoff Livingston. Through Mark Hovarth’s InvisiblePeople.tv even more help is given to those who truly need it.

Homelessness is not going away. We can turn a blind eye if we wish, or we can do something, even something small to help.

How do you react when you see someone begging for money or food? Do you feel sad for them? Disgust? Do you blame them for their situation?

I am really hoping that we can realize that the homeless population is made up of many kinds of different people. Many have untreated mental illness. Some lost their homes through no fault of their own, but instead are homeless due to a tragedy, such as a fire or a flood. Some are alcoholics and drug addicts. Many are decent hardworking people who just could not catch a break. Most of all they are human.

Just like us.

15 thoughts on “What Is An Apple Worth?

  1. This example upsets me personally. (Not what you did). When I worked with Stand Up for Kids in Los Angeles there was this teen couple among the street kids in Hollywood who got pregnant. And they decided to have the baby. And all I thought was you had better not raise the kid on the street or how dare you have a kid. I am ok with putting up for adoption but will the fetus get prenatal care? This goes to refugee camps, hunger camps, etc etc. I think it is pretty evil to have a child where their circumstances will be suffering from the get go. I know many places have no birth control available and many people are against it (but usually the same people hate kids because they don’t want to help support them with time or money they just want them born then dump em into life). It is crazy as humans we do this. Very selfish in my view. And worse that usually the man gets to skate on their responsibility here.

    That said the problem is real. Follow Mark on twitter @invisiblepeople and @hardlynormal. He is a big advocate. And the reason I loved Stand Up for Kids was it was a program trying to prevent adult homelessness. Most of the kids come from abusive homes (physical, mental, sexual) and parents are never accountable for being crappy parents. It is really hard to go from homeless to not homeless as an adult if you were on the street for many years.

    And everyone should experience what you did Nancy. These are good people in bad situations.Thank you for sharing such a great experience.

    • Interesting Howie, I’m a volunteer for Guardian ad Litem and almost all the kids I deal with are from abusive homes and just about every case will have drugs and sexual abuse involved.

      Most of these kids are not going to make it. They will be unemployable and be a product of the ‘system’ for as long as they live. The challenge is breaking the cycle, even if it’s one kid at a time.

    • I am so blown away by your comment Howie. i hope this woman is getting care for that fetus as well. It is a tough world to raise a child in, and when you are already in a bad spot it only makes things worse.

      You are so right about the bad parents being a huge part of the problem. I had a friend whose sister has two kids that are in and out of shelters and TC’s. The shame is that she and her husband are HORRIBLE parents. They never get taken to task for it though and that is sad. Parents need to give their kids skills needed to become independent.

      I am glad I wrote this post. I almost wrote something else. Glad I didn’t.

  2. I thought you were going to say that bag wasn’t yours you got the apple from.

    I hear and read of all the people and money who go overseas on these ‘mission’ trips, which is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. However, we have so much ‘fixing’ we can do within our own borders you would think more people would want to take care of that first.

    I would say a lot of people have compassion but would prefer out of sight out of mind. Unfortunately, we can’t just keep ignoring it……….

    • I agree. Charity begins right here in the good old U.S. of A. We need to take care of our citizens before fixing the world. I also agree that most people do feel bad, and may not know what to do. I have offered food and had it refused. I won’t give money, but i will give food without a doubt.

      We keep ignoring it at our own peril. The homeless situation is very bad where i live. We can’t turn a blind eye forever.

  3. This is such a great story! I love the joy that you can out of helping others. I just read a great book called The Girls Guide to Homelessness. This girl has had the craziest life and still managed to overcome the odds (her story is not over yet!). She also was/is a blogger and a great writer.

  4. I enjoy the “homeless” as much as any other person. I don’t consider them different from me, except for their suffering. I do what I can when I can. One thing that I always get upset about is the “holier than thou” attitude I hear from some people. I think everyone is doing the best that they know how to do. The real issue is the observer’s heart. My job is to enjoy their sunshine and theirs is to enjoy mine, even if it’s in sharing an apple.
    Thanks Nancy. Beautiful post.

  5. When I come across someone who is homeless, I always assume that the person has been a victim of tough circumstances. I watch the TV show Intervention, and it makes you realize how easy it is to fall into homelessness, especially if you have an addiction. I try to help, if I can. Sometimes I give cash (if I have it) and other times I grab some fast food and bring it to them. I also save all of my soda cans and give them to the homeless gentleman who stops by our condo complex every few days to look for recyclables. It’s not a lot, but I hope it helps him.

    • If you have an addiction, nothing else matters. That is why I give food and not money. I won’t buy someone booze or drugs, but i will happily give them food. Giving the cans is a good idea too. I am sure that everything helps. When you don’t have anything, something really is better than nothing.

      Thanks for stopping by Marianne! :)

    • I never thought of that before! What an excellent idea. They can’t get cash, only food. I know that here in NYC, so many of us are rushing around that often people do miss things like that. It really is sad too.

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