May 14, 2006

I'm Going To Hell For This One

Morning Workout
2 hours
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1), or as best as I can do to keep it that high

1 hour
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1), or as best as I can do to keep it that low

Random Comments: My mother asked me how my workout went this morning. It went well, I said, it felt good. So that means your back is fine, your legs are fine? she inquired. That's about the point where I started stammering. Um......uh......

It's funny how one's standards become a bit askew after a few months of bodily destruction. For any normal person, a run that "felt good" might very well mean one where there was no pain or discomfort. I'd even go so far as to presume that a run that "felt good" would end with a sense of elation. Not so much for the first time Ironman-er. Yeah, my run today felt good, but that means it only took one mile for my shins to stop hurting, only three miles for my calves to loosen up, my tired quads slowed me down tremendously on the uphills but not enough for me to have to walk and the excruciating pain in my left leg didn't kick in until 7 minutes from the end of the workout. Oh, and when I finally finished, I was damn glad it was over. In a nutshell, that means there were no overall debilitating afflictions. I didn't fall to the ground, I didn't feel like giving up and didn't even have visions of the comfortable cots in the emergency room.

And that, my friends, is what I call a pretty good run.

I give to charity as much as the next guy. Arguably even more so. Alzheimer's, AIDS, cancer, Girl Scout cookies.... I've donated to many a good cause in my time and I do it quite regularly. Hell, I also give to the homeless if they look very destitute.

Over the years, though, my charitable donations have come more in the form of checks in the mail, time at the shelter or trips to the Salvation Army. There are now so many homeless in Los Angeles, I'd end up just like them if I decided to donate to each and every one that approached me on the street. Besides, it's getting tougher to tell the difference between the true homeless and the scam artists - they're all wearing pretty nice sneakers.

I guess you can say I've become a bit more jaded. I still feel guilty when I turn somebody down as they're asking for money but, goshdarnit, I worked for this money and am entitled to what I have. I'll still give away to charity, but it's just not right to give money to every single person that asks. Which brings me to last night...

Cat and I went to the movies in the busy part of town where all the tourists and panhandlers like to mingle. They sit on the edge of the sidewalk with their signs (the panhandlers, that is, not the tourists). With all the competition out there for spare change, the panhandling signage has become a bit more creative or, shall I say, the panhandler with the best marketing gimmick wins. There are the homeless vets, the guy who just needs to buy food for his dog, the mother with four children who mysteriously are never with her, the lady that only needs $20 for gas, the double amputee and on and on it goes. It's a tough market. But I'll bet you that even the guy with the sign that says, "Let's face it, I just want a beer," is bringing in some good change every day.

Over the years, I've almost gotten used to passing them all by, of just saying "not today, sorry" and moving on with but a slight twinge of guilt flowing through my bones. So when the fellow with the clipboard approached me yesterday I didn't even think twice, not even breaking stride in the midst of the conversation I was having with Cat.

Can you assist with a donation to help the homeless children with AIDS for Mother's Day, he asked, extending the clipboard to show the authenticity of the claim and the extended list of previous donors.

Not today, sorry, I said in my usual brush-off tone and kept walking, my hand lovingly around Cat's shoulder. Realizing I wasn't going to budge, he turned away. Cat and I continued our conversation as we walked up the street.

About two blocks later, I stopped talking. Honey, I said. Did I just give the brush off to homeless children with AIDS?

Yes you did, sweetie, she replied. It was to help them for Mother's Day, too.

So I didn't help the homeless children with AIDS for Mother's Day, huh?

Nope, she confirmed.

In some odd way I felt pretty low about that one even though there was a definite marketing angle behind it all. I mean, I'm sure there are homeless children with AIDS out there needing my money. But Mother's Day? What do homeless children with AIDS have to do with Mother's Day anyway? Whatever...I still felt bad. And so I started thinking about it some more.

Does it matter if I've helped each category separately on different occasions, I thought. I've given to the homeless, the children and the AIDS foundation. Oh, and I've given my mother a Mother's Day card as well. Does that add up to the same thing or have I just committed some grave, unforgiveable sin by passing this man by? Maybe I need to focus my charitable efforts on the specific sub-category of homeless children with AIDS for Mother's Day. Perhaps I should go home and do an online search for this charitable organization that provides to such a precise group of needy.

But wait, what happens to the homeless children with AIDS after Mother's Day? Do they suddenly become better? Maybe with all the money they get for Mother's Day, they are able to buy homes and get treatment. Would it have been appropriate for me to say something along the lines of, I'm sorry, not today. However, I'd be more than happy to make a charitable donation to homeless children with AIDS for Rosh Hashanah. I would be grateful if you would contact me as the high holidays approach.

Perhaps then I could not only take care of the homeless children with AIDS, but I could also fulfill my religious donation allocation. If I could do that, than maybe I could divert some of my Holocaust Fund donations to the living children of today, albeit the homeless ones with AIDS.

This whole charitable donation business has become so difficult to manage these days. Which reminds me, I oughta tell you sometime how I was hoodwinked by the Girl Scouts. It's organized crime in a little green dress, I tell ya...