It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I'm continually strapped for cash. Through a series of poor choices and un/avoidable circumstances in my past life, I find myself continuing to live paycheck-to-paycheck at age 35. Not really what I was expecting for myself at this stage of my life, but it is what it is and bitching about it fixes nothing. Through planning and strict adherence to a frugal lifestyle do I maintain the hope that one day, probably very far in the future, I will finally be rid of this albatross.
That said, every now and then I do slip and end up buying a gift I hadn't planned on, or making a dinner for someone and covering all the costs, or even just getting something for myself that I needed but hadn't planned on, like a few new bras or a few downloads from iTunes or a small slab of fancy cheese. Maybe a cab ride someplace instead of public transport. Small things individually, but when, at the end of two weeks you find yourself using change in your purse to buy eggs and tuna, those things can really be both monumental and regrettable in hindsight.
It's the few days before I get paid that can be the most stressful for me. I've got the bills piling up, due dates to the wire, living off staples in the house and budgeting my non-work transit trips to conserve my travel costs. Every nickel really does count.
It's these times that I see him. Alex.
He's a member of the homeless community employed by The Big Issue, a magazine that's put out weekly and sold by guys like Alex, clearly distinguishable by their bright The Big Issue vests and I'D badges. This magazine goes for $5, $2.50 of which the seller gets to keep. Each of them has a stack that they sell during the week.
I've looked into this community program. The guys are all sober, trained people who don't heckle others and are pleasant to talk with. They've got strict guidelines to follow with regard to their conduct and interaction with the public. It seems like a really great program.
So I don't know what it means when it's only the days that I'm down to my last $5 in my wallet until payday that I see Alex out front of my local train station. And I give him the last $5 I have. He's trying, he's sober, and he's always pleasant to talk to. Who am I, with a roof over my head, good health and a steady job to hold onto that $5 that could help someone else when I'll be paid in a few days?
I don't mind doing things like this at all.