I grew up very poor and with a single mom. Often there was no money for food, and I was hungry a lot.
On my fifth birthday (1986), a couple of close family members were invited to go to a park to celebrate my birthday. No cake, no presents, not a problem. Except for my auntie. She had an envelope in her hand.
Before everyone sang happy birthday, I saw a little boy, probably my age, and a woman, digging in the park dumpster for food. Something happened to me. I begged my mom to invite them to my party but my mother was not a fan of strangers. She said no.
I was intrigued, I didn’t know others struggled like me, it hurt my heart. I watched them as everyone sang. I watched them when my auntie handed me an envelope. I watched them as I opened it until I saw the contents, a crisp 100 dollar bill. My mother was enraged that my auntie would give me such a large amount of money. I think my auntie trusted me more than my mother with cash.
We were poor, I didn’t eat 3 days a week, I had a very hard childhood. But I had never dug in a dumpster for food.
My auntie kept talking over my mother, telling me, I could do ANYTHING with that money. So I did. I walked to the dumpster to the boy and his mother. I explained to the boy that it was my birthday and my one present was a $100, and I wanted to give it to them. There were so many tears and thank yous.
I, and my auntie, understood how powerful it was to give the only money I’ve ever seen away. My mother never did. I paid dearly for the action that night. But it was worth it.
I think about that boy and his mother often.