I had a gig once in Kingston, Jamaica. Now, if you’ve ever been to Jamaica you might be thinking “score, rad gig brah.”
You’d be wrong. Kingston is a hell hole, violent, overrun with gangs and poverty. The little strip I was on was called the financial district, and it was one street that wasn’t too bad.
While I was there I met a homeless man named Rappa. He and I would talk for hours. There were many dangerous people in the neighborhood, and he pointed them out for me. He helped me avoid trouble, taught me about Kingston life, and never asked for a cent.
One day I bought him a new t-shirt and some sandwiches. He was shocked, and cried as he rolled up the sandwiches in the t-shirt and went to hide them (he said he’d be attacked if others knew).
It moved me so much that when I was on the final day of the gig, I went to a local shop and bought meals for the seven homeless folks that frequented that block. Each one got a piece of chicken, a couple johnnycakes, some baked beans, and a box of juice. When everyone was walking off with their prizes, I handed a final bag to Rappa. In it was two full chickens, about 20 johnnycakes and a bunch of other goodies.
It’s hard to describe his reaction. Happiness mixed with grief mixed with hope mixed with sheer terror. To him, he had been given a treasure, and that treasure was both welcome and highly coveted. His face at that moment is one I will never forget, and I have to say my life is much improved having known him.
He taught me a great deal about humility.
To be honest, what kindness there was also had a little bit of guilt mixed in. He explained how he lost his last job (his feet and ankles were highly infected and bone white, so he couldn’t lift), about the death of several family members, and about how he survived on the street. And there I was, making more in a week than he probably made in years even when he had a job.
It was probably the first time I’d ever been forced to take a deep introspective look at myself vs. humanity. A face to face encounter with something more than first world problems, so to speak. So yeah, there was guilt there too.
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