For three weeks, Mom traveled around town with three garbage bags filled with clothes. She had seen some below-poverty-line-types outside a synagogue near my house, and each time she came over to visit, she vowed to donate the clothing for the synagogue to distribute.
Two problems: 1. The synagogue never seemed to be open, and 2. She had no way of knowing if they had any use for cast-off clothes.
The latter issue didn't bother her much. Mom has always been a giver. Know the line drug addicts give about just needing "35 more cents for bus fare?" Mom doesn't. She is always ready with exact change.
To eat with her at an outdoor restaurant is to dine with pigeons -- winged rodents Mom insists on feeding because, she says, "They're hungry." When I note that they've eaten more of her meal than she has, she gives me a dirty look -- almost as dirty as the mess the birds leave behind.
One Thanksgiving, Mom insisted on walking to the beach after our meal because she'd seen a homeless man there several hours earlier, and she wanted to bring him a bag of leftovers. It was a kind gesture, but -- of course -- the man was long gone by the time we got there.
Never mind, she said, we'd just leave the bag of food at the spot on the beach where he had last been.
"Isn't this littering?" I asked.
"We're leaving food for the man," she said.
"But the man is not here."
"But if comes back, there will be food here," she said.
"And if he doesn't come back, we'll have littered," I said. "And if
he comes back tomorrow, we'll have left him unrefrigerated food that
will poison him."
"He doesn't have any food," she said, annoyed. "We're giving him food."
I learned later that we also gave him one of my forks.
"How could he eat without a fork?"
We all want to teach our children the importance of charity. And, no
doubt, my mom believes that my sister and I have learned much by Mom's
example of giving unnecessarily to drug addicts, imaginary people and
overfed animals. So it shouldn't have surprised me when, on her third
trip to my house, she would suggest that I let her take Zev down to the
synagogue with her.
"I don't necessarily want to teach Zev that it's OK to give garbage bags to homeless people."
Irritated, Mom set off without Zev, leaving three bags of clothes that
no one asked for on the steps of a synagogue that never seems to be
open. The next time she drove by, the garbage bags were gone. This made
her very happy.
In her mind, this means the clothes found their proper home on the
backs of people who really need them. And – for everyone's sake – I
hope she's right.
But, man, will I be mad if I find out she slipped some of my nice hangers in those bags.