Panhandling, generosity, and cutting roots

Dear Sunaina,

I’ve heard that the winter is having a hard time letting go of the mainland. How are things in NYC? Here it’s…about 53-85 all year long! Not trying to brag or anything, well maybe a little. This place has been very welcoming, and I’m starting to explore my options and wondering, should I stay or should I go at the end of August? Also, I got a garden tool that I’ve been missing since I left Louisiana. It’s a game changer as far as maintenance and making new beds goes!

To sidetrack a little bit, getting away from gardening and Maui, there’s a guy named Fousey that does social experiments, could be seen as practical jokes, and some of it is pretty funny, but most is pretty interesting stuff. He did this one, giving money to people, and I thought you’d find it interesting. I was pretty shocked at the reactions he got, especially the last one. I think this says a lot about society and socioeconomic class cultures and bias. There were a couple truly beautiful moments as well. Generosity and humility are such important things, and not celebrated nearly enough. Often people pay taxes and feel like they gave to others, but they didn’t they just had their money taken by a wealthy and powerful force that they couldnt resist. Paying taxes is in no way “generosity”, it doesn’t humble a person through empathizing with another human being, that comes from relating to another person, or at least attempting to.

When I did accounting in movies I made plenty enough money, paid my taxes, and carried MREs and bottles of water for people that asked for money. I personally value food and water more than money, and I know that an absurd amount of panhandlers made more money than I did when I had that job and sure as hell do now that I don’t make a regular income! But the intent was to take the effort to benefit someone and to better their lives, and to hopefully reduce some of the needless suffering in life. It was a selfish act too, in ways, because I gave on my terms. The last thing I’m giving a panhandler is cash-money. If they choose to pay for their mortgage, car note, crack, meth, alcohol, hookers, groceries, medication, or whatever by panhandling, that’s fine, but it won’t be money from me. I have had people turn down food, some even scoffing at the offer, when they asked for money. I also remember one time when I gave a Vietnam Veteran a new age MRE and a bottle of water, “I never had one of these!”, he lit up like it was the best gift ever. By the time the light turned green he was across the street and sitting under a tree, fixing his meal. Last week I purchased 2 containers of yogurt, thanks to some coupons from a demo lady, insert shameless plug for Liberte and their awesome full-fat yogurt line…if only I could have a yogurt IV…*swoon*…I digress, it was hot outside and I could only eat one container. I finished my yogurt as I pulled into a certain big-box store and standing at the corner was a young lady panhandling, so I parked and brought her the extra yogurt. She was very grateful, immediately tore off the lid and used it as a spoon, (I drank mine, didn’t think to use the lid), and ate the yogurt in about 3 bites. She was definitely hungry. We talked for a minute, she was 21, from Oregon, moved to Maui to be with her mom, they had a falling out, and now she lives who-knows-where-doing-who-knows-what. She said she was willing to work, though she made no mention of that on her sign. I’m a natural skeptic, and slightly paranoid…err, cautious, so in the back of my mind I was thinking about the possible self-imposed reasons for being out in the hot sun holding a sign without a hat on and willingly living in such a way. It’s true that most people genuinely in those positions put themselves there, somehow, but that was a pretty closed minded thought process that I went through. Even though I helped her out in some way, I did have an inherent and automatic negative prejudice to her situation. Is that a trait that one should abolish, or is recognizing it and working within reason enough? Personally, I really don’t know. I dont see my judgements ever truly disappearing, but also don’t see them ever stopping me from helping, or trying to help, people that ask for it.

In Fousey‘s video he was doing the opposite of panhandling, and if someone approached me in such a way I’m 100% certain that I’d never react like some of those in his video. As I sit here eating from a can of refried beans, nibbling on a stale French Bread end, I wonder if I wouldn’t react like they did because I can’t relate to them, and maybe I’m somehow missing the turmoil and hardships that would cause them to act in such a way? We never truly know a person’s story, only the story they tell through living. Empathy, though, it’s such a beautiful thing…to at least try to feel a person’s position. It doesn’t remove us from our own, just empowers our perspectives. In this case, with the behavior from those negative people in the video, I have a hard time being empathetic. I think Fousey did too.

IMG_3972 - EditedSo, this tool I mentioned, it’s called a Triangle Scuffle Hoe, aka Dutch Hoe, and if I didn’t think it was extreme I’d write about how it must be a conspiracy to not sell these in big-box stores, in order to increase herbicide sales. It’s the best garden working tool that I’ve ever purchased. The ones I bought (one in Louisiana and one here) are from Flexrake, and they came dull, but a couple minutes on a grinding wheel, sharpening at 45 degrees, and it’s a yarden working wiz! I don’t “weed” my garden beds, but I do destroy grass that grows in them.

This scuffle hoe lets me separate the plant from the root base easily, while avoiding the desirables near them. As the roots rot, and they will eventually, they put their nutrition back into the soil and the decaying matter loosens up the soil in the area, promotes mycorrhizal growth with the plants we want most, and aerates the soil. The grass top stays on the ground to provide ground cover and mulch. I was worried about how it would perform in the rock based soil here, being on a volcano and all, but I’m very pleased with the performance. I’m not sure if my preference for the push hoe is due to my back and hip problems, or because it’s actually a more comfortable and better performing tool. I’m leaning towards the latter.

Someone presented me with an interesting proposition last week. They are the acting landlord for a nearby cabin that is in disrepair, and they offered it to me, rent free, in exchange for improving it if I wanted to stay on Maui. It’s very tempting, and being that he designed his property to be a school, he knows my goal of building a sustainable living school and homestead, and he would be my neighbor, it could be an interesting adventure. As of right now I’m still uncertain, but I can see that quickly changing. I’m a man with little to lose, and much to gain, by taking the risks of delving into my passions with others. One of my weaknesses is actually working with others, having been independent for so much of my life. A few day ago I wrote this: “I like it when a person’s presence helps to bring out the better in me, just by being there. I like being that person for others too. Words of verbal motivation and ideas can change the world, but most of the time they don’t truly alter people’s lives. Every now and then kernels of wisdom may spark something in a person, but how many seeds do we sow before one takes? Who knows? When someone compliments your very spirit and self, though, it’s a powerful thing and a true and natural motivation. This is not, of course, the same as co-dependence or obsession, which I think are prevalent in society and a major factor in the massive divorce and disloyalty rates, and older marrying ( or committed bond intended for life) ages.” What motivated that writing was a likely short-lived prospect of romance, if history dictates anyway. In reality romance has been both my greatest adventure and without question my greatest failure. There are worse problems to have. And there is nothing that requires romance to be the stimulator of a person’s self-betterment. Sometimes we just impact people, and we don’t know why, we’re lucky if we ever know that we did in the first place, and the person that offered me the cabin is one of those people. He was depressed for years, and when we met he started to pull out of it. I don’t know if it’s directly related to our meeting or if it’s just life circumstances, but it’s really nice to witness someone growing out of a pit of despair. It’s great to be appreciated, it’s nice to have opportunity, and I love where I am, those things have me leaning towards staying here and working on that cabin, getting goats, chickens, bees, a llama, a livestock guardian dog…err, maybe not all at once. This neighbor has become my friend, and this could help us both, plus I have been dying for a reason to get a good tool set, being without one feels like being without a part of myself! There are a number of options, however; a goat-farm apprenticeship opportunity is also pretty attractive and provides an income and a place to live. Time will tell….

The blue skies of today have been overcome by clouds and a cool breeze, and this beautiful day is turning into night. I think I’ll walk down the mountain and watch a movie with some neighbors. Soon I’ll be guest blogging for an incredible urban gardener, and friend, in Colorado. Xeriscaping will be the topic, dealing with dry climates, and it’s a topic that should be closely studied by residents of California with their epic drought. She’ll share a blog here as well, at some point. When I find out the details I’ll be sure to share them.

Aloha, my dear friend.

Malama pono,


IMG_4794 - Editedp.s.
I don’t always eat refried beans and stale bread…sometimes I eat dates, blueberry bagels, peanut butter with honey and hemp seeds, chocolate chips, and freshly roasted pumpkin seeds. :)

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