I stopped at a gas station to get something to drink and a snack on my way home one day when a man approached me from the direction of the gas pumps. He was slim, about my height, and he had on torn and tattered clothes. He asked if he could borrow $5 to get some gas. He said he had $5 of his own and needed $10 in gas to get through the next few days before he got paid. I was inclined to not help him out, to be honest. I wasn’t in a good mood. But then I thought about all those times members of my family have missed work or school because they didn’t have enough money for gasoline.
Now, I didn’t have cash on me, so I couldn’t just give him $5. I told him to wait for me to get what I was getting and that I would tell the cashier to put $10 on the pump where he was, then he could just give me the $5. And that’s exactly what we did. He thanked me and walked out to the gas pump. I walked out to the jeep and jumped in. When I looked behind me to see the man pumping his $10 in gasoline, I saw him take out a pack of cigarettes and start smoking one.
To say that I was “incensed” is an understatement. In Maryland, the average pack of cigarettes is over $6. All things being equal, this guy spent on cigarettes the amount of money he needed for gas. When my family members were without money for gas, it was because they were in low-wage jobs, or because they had multiple children to feed, or because they were unemployed due to a bad economy. It wasn’t because they had an expensive habit like smoking. (Or, if they did, they quit.) This guy needed $5 for gas because he “burned” that money for cigarettes.
My faith in humanity has been challenged numerous times, mostly by reading the news reports every day. There were two times that I was held up and all my cash stolen. There was that time that no one went to the aid of a woman who had been run over by a car. But this one takes the cake. It takes the cake because it showed me how incredibly deceitful human beings can be.
Welcome to the human race, I guess.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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