I have always prided myself at being AWESOME at life. Part of being AWESOME at life was seeking out opportunities to help the less fortunate. Like one time, I gave my gloves to some homeless guy.
Another time, I gave my seat to a super pregnant lady. The look of gratefulness she gave me was enough to melt the heart of God himself.
And another time, I was at Shopper’s Drug Mart, I almost bought a $5.00 gift card for the next person in line from me. I refrained when I saw that it was some old geezer buying Lottery tickets. Pfft…screw that! I may be awesome at life, but I’m no enabler.
The problem with this whole act of kindness thing that I’m mildly obsessed with is that there’s always an air of pride that’s dancing along with that. I never do things for people if:
- It’s inconvenient for me.
- They’re crazy.
- If they clearly look distressed but also look like they are totally capable of lunging for the carotid with a machete and the kind of enthusiasm that only comes with being a repeat victim of the Toronto Transit Commission.
Most people who need help in Toronto fit one or all of the above categories.
And then I met Ivan last week.
I was going to buy some groceries on my way home from work when a rotund little man with a cane and two heaping grocery bags was walking towards me. He was talking to himself no less.
“EXCUSE ME, KIND LADY! Will you help me with my bags?” He was looking straight at me.
He fit almost all of my above stated categories. Although, he wouldn’t be able to run fast enough after me with a machete with those bags so I obliged.
“Sure, I’ll help you!”
“Thank you, kind lady. My name is Ivan and you’re a kind lady!!” Of course I’m a kind lady, Ivan!
Turned out he not only needed help with his bags, he also needed a shoulder to lean on. Literally. He almost fell off on one side. When you’re not strong and you need a friend, you lean on Karen.
To say his bags were heavy was an understatement. If his bags were a food group, they’d be trans fat. If his bags were a feeling, they’d be a mixture of guilt and daddy issues. If his bags were a mustache, they’d be Tom Selleck.
The point is, I couldn’t actually carry his bags and have him lean all of his 250lbs on me at the same time. The only thing that kept me going was pride that I was doing something good.
Ivan was a character. If the personalities of Walter Matthau and Uncle Leo from Seinfield had a love child, it would grow up to become Ivan’s personality.
He shouted at everyone on the streets about what a kind lady I was. When he found out I was Catholic, he yelled some more about how protestants are fools.
“NOT the place or time, Ivan”, I scolded back at him.
“Whatever you say, kind lady”
Luckily, the City of Toronto is God’s own green earth of polite, tree-hugging atheists. All I got were stares of unadulterated sympathy.
The subway station, where Ivan wanted to get to was three minutes away. Twenty minutes later, we were still crossing the street and Ivan was still bitching about protestants.
He finally noticed that I was struggling with the bags and just stopped and asked, “Oh kind sister, would like some help with those bags?”
I stared at him dumbly.”No Ivan, you need help with these bags, remember?”
“Oh you’re such a kind lady”.
By the time we got down the stairs to the subway platform, Ivan had already yelled at every passerby about how kind I was and I, in turn, was ready to fling his bags onto the subway tracks.
The train finally came by. Ivan wrote his number on my hand and insisted I call him because he liked kind ladies.
Before he left he yelled one last time, “WAIT! I have something important to tell you”
He said this with all the self-importance an enlightened Siddhartha could muster. Maybe this was the moment when I was to find out that he’s really a wise man and he’ll give me a piece of profound wisdom that would make sense all of that had just happened.
“Remember, kind lady”, he said. “When you go grocery shopping today, stock up on juice. JUICE IS ON SALE!!”
Fuck you, Ivan. And the subway door closed.
Moral of the story: Its okay to have a little pride when you seek to help people. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of doing the right thing. But its better to have humility. Because without it, nothing you do to help people will ever make sense to you.
PS: Thank you all for such a warm welcome back. It feels good to see all of you again :)