I was walking home from school the other day, when I was stopped by two homeless people asking for money on a street corner. Normally, I rush past homeless people and pretend not to see them, because there are so many of them in D.C. But this time, I had some change in my pocket I was ready to let go of.
The first homeless guy had a smile on his face while holding out his money cup. The second guy looked angry. I split my change into two, and gave them each what felt like an equal share. The smiling guy's face lightened up while he said, "thank you." The angry guy threw my money back at me and started yelling at me for giving more to the smiling guy. Then he started yelling at the smiling guy who, in turn, turned to me and thanked me again.
I felt bad for the smiling guy for having to sit next to such a mean, angry person all day in the freezing cold. So I picked up the money from the floor and gave the rest of it to the smiling guy. His grin widened.
At this point, the angry guy was fuming. He began packing his things onto his cart as he muttered in between breaths:
"This happens every time. Every time! He's following me everywhere. He's always trying to sit next to me 'n take my money. MY MONEY! 'N you people, you always giving him and not me. Why can't he just stick to his own damn spot. I'm leavin'!"
The smiling guy shrugged, still smiling. I felt satisfied for giving him all my change.
Walking away, however, I realized the angry guy was speaking truth in a lot of ways. The smiling guy was profiting a lot from sitting next to him. His flammable anger wasn't spreading to the smiling guy, because the smiling guy knew that the more angry his friend was, the more money he was likely to make; the same way he succeeded with me.
By smiling at me, he drew me to him first. Then by thanking me for the measly coins I dropped in his cup, he compelled me to give him more. And by not getting angry when his friend started yelling at him for something that wasn't his fault, he made me feel compassion for him, leading me to want to give him his friend's share, too. And even though his angry friend probably needed the money more, I left feeling satisfied.
I thought, that guy's a business genius.
My mom always told me, "don't think there's a person in this world you can't learn something from. You can learn something from anybody you meet; even homeless people." Well guess what, Mom. I learned about gratitude from a homeless guy today.
I also learned that idiots are great business for non-idiots. The angry homeless guy kept getting angrier every time his friend made money—but he didn't realize that the contrast of his negativity with his friend's positivity doubled his friend's profits!