Net Worth

Posted: June 7, 2007 in Compassion, Homelessness, Money, Panhandling

Microsoft Chairman and co-founder, Bill Gates, reputedly has a net worth of some $40 billion.

Since I am homeless, I’m not sure if I have a net worth. If I do, it’s so miniscule that you would need a microscope and a high powered searchlight to find it. I’m diligently striving to change that.

Believe it or not, homeless support service agencies don’t meet all of the needs of the homeless.  

Since our country gave up using the bartering system a long time ago, money is a requirement regardless of whether you’re homeless or not. So, if you’re homeless and you’re not receiving some type of government aid, you have to try and find some way of putting a few bucks in your pocket.

I don’t believe in stealing, but from time to time I do need money. At times, when no other opportunity presented itself, I would have to go out and panhandle.

For me personally, panhandling is by far the most unpleasant, distasteful (and demeaning) activity that I’ve ever had to engage in – which is probably why I’m not very successful at it.

While it’s true that the main goal of panhandling is to get money, food is something that I also was given. But there were other gifts that I received while panhandling – everything from a small statuette of Buddha to prayer cards, all of which I’ve kept.

There are three things in particular that I was given that are treasures to me. Each was given on separate occasions at different locations.

The first is a trading card similar to a baseball card or Pokemon card.

The woman who gave me the card drove past the place I was standing with a sign that day and offered me a cigarette. When I declined she said that she was sorry, but she didn’t have any money to give me. I said that it was okay and thanked her.

She drove out of the parking lot but re-entered at the next entrance, came back around to where I standing rolled down her window and held out the card to me and said: "Here. This is you."

When I glanced at the card, I saw that it had a biography of a Kiowas Chieftain named Lone Wolf. The Kiowas were native to the Kansas territory, and it turns out that Lone Wolf was one the Native American delegates who signed the Treaty of Medicine Lodge in October of 1867.

Being half Native American, I was deeply moved and quite happy to receive such a gift.

The second gift is a quarter.

It was minted in 1943, which means that it’s a "silver" quarter.

The woman who gave it to me was a senior citizen who saw me standing and holding my sign as she entered the parking lot.

She parked in the nearest spot possible to where I was standing – which was still about 35 feet away – exited her car and walked up to me smiling. Then she opened up her little change purse and (quite literally) had to shake the quarter out of the purse and into her other hand. Holding it out to me she said: "Here you go young man."

When I realized that it was her last quarter, I said to her: "That’s okay, Ma’am. I can’t take your last quarter."

To which she replied: "No. I want you to have it. I hope it brings you luck."

Normally, whatever change I get I place into my right hand pants pocket, but for some reason I placed that quarter in my left hand pocket. Later that evening when I pulled the quarter out, I saw that it was a silver quarter. I don’t know if the quarter is actually worth anything monetarily, but it means a lot to me.

The third gift is three one-dollar bills.

Again, I had been standing, holding a sign. A large dark green SUV pulled up and the rear passenger window went down and a young boy about 6 or 7 years old held out three dollars toward me.

As I took the bills, I thanked him and then glancing in the window at his mother, who was driving, I thanked her also. She told me not to thank her because it was her sons’ money. When I tried to give the bills back she told me that since it was money he had saved it was his to give to me if that’s what he wanted to do. Not only could I hear the pride in her voice for her son, I could see the love in her eyes.

The lump in my throat allowed me only a hoarse and barely audible "thank you" before they drove away.

Occasions like that have left lasting impressions on me and have made me feel absolutely wealthy. Not in my wallet, but where it really matters – down deep within my heart. They’ve filled me with appreciation for the kindness of strangers and have left me with a deepening sense of wonder and awe.

I know that my net worth is laughable when compared to the net worth of someone like Bill Gates. But it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t trade all of his money for any of the gifts I’ve received.

The three one-dollar bills, the quarter and the "trading" card? I carry them with me everywhere I go because in the end, it’s not the size of the gift that matters, it’s the enormity of the heart from which they’re given that counts…

…And that’s priceless.

  1. Timmy says:

    “…it’s not the size of the gift that matters, it’s the enormity of the heart from which they’re given that counts…

    …And that’s priceless.”

    I agree.

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