Years ago, almost 10 in fact, I left the city love I was in for various reasons. The love was because of community, true friendship, natural beauty and a girl. I left because I figured all of that could be replaced. I had a good life, which included a 40-hour, a week job, a part time paper route that netted $400 a week and a couple volunteer gigs I loved.
When I left there was a common word I remember used to describe me…in prayer meetings, in cards, in letters, in private conversations. It was a word I never would have used to describe myself which made it that much more truthful.
I was called humble, which made me laugh because I knew me. I was doing a lot of those things for a reason- to be known, to be well known. To be able to say all I did and for whom I did it. Granted I once told an amazing girl I couldn’t come over for home cooked dinner because I had to meet with a buddy having a mental day…and said girl never had called for me again. That was humble by most modern movie standards, but honestly I didn’t think of myself as very…that.
In my next location, I used the word as a joke to describe myself …some self-deprecating humour. Going so far as to end my little bio with “He considers himself the most humblest man in the world”. It was hilarious but also showed that I didn’t truly feel that way. Yet, a lot of people continued to think I was which made me feel weird and continued to not think I was as self-centered as I felt I was. Either I was wrong or VERY good at faking it.
Fast forward to this week. I am having beers at this place with one of my favorite dudes in this city and my current life when he busts me. He is someone that speaks truth to me and so I expect it, but it still is surprising. We are ranting to each other about wealth misdistribution, rough lives, community living, local sourcing, Jesus and our own hypocrisy. Mostly standard Portland fare. I like to give examples and say something along the lines of “I had a homeless dude offer to pay for half his meal the other day”. It is a great story about a dude I have seen and been accosted by for 2 + years now comes up waving cash and I am already waving him away when he says “I will give you this if you’ll just pay the rest.” I couldn’t say no so bought him food and took his dollar and some change.
“You know that is the third time you mentioned giving money away”
I was stopped in my tracks. It was at least the third time. At least that many times I had mentioned how giving I am. When in fact, that meal was the first I bought for Wesley –the houseless dude looking for food. The first I had bought a meal for anyone in months, if not close to a year. The first time I had asked a beggar their name in weeks, if not months. The first time in years that I let a dude have some pride and accepted his money as 1/6th of the payment. It was also not the first time in months I had spent money at McDonalds—the great S. A. Tan of good eating.
I wish I could say that on the way home I realized how humble I needed to be, but alas on the way home I felt poor. Because I had just spent more money on beer than I had on food in a week. More money on beer than I had given to anyone recently. Something a humble dude would not be able to say.
***The houseless dude’s name is Wesley. Pray for him, if you do that sort of thing.