Riya Suising

Riya Suising

Feeder of the hungry and the needy.



Fri 9:03 PM

Hi Riya, you there?

Hi Eileen! Yes, here now.

OK, cool. So let’s push the quick start button, please tell us a little about yourself. Take your time … the more the better because we can always cut down … I can’t make stuff up.

Do you want to call me? If that’s easier to talk??

Nah, I can’t record and I won’t take good notes.

OK, text chat is fine. But first, who is the audience? Just want to make sure I say something useful.

Yep, of course! It’s followers of Animal Run. I’ll be posting on my personal page too. I would like to think that people reading my posts are conscious of social justice.  That’s probably not 100% true, but they put up with me.

OK, that’s good. OK. I have my own part-time business, certified massage therapist, where I travel to client’s homes around the Bay Area, so I do a lot of driving. I also drive for Uber/Lyft a few hours a week, very part-time, so more driving!

I’m also a student again, part-time grad student in UC Berkeley’s Master of Public Health program.  I also do a lot of running on the side, in 3 running clubs, and racing with a team.

Can you also talk a teeny weeny bit about your Chinese background, where you grew up, how you started running? People love origin stories. It helps us orient you.

OK. I’m Chinese American, but very Westernized. I grew up in LA. Parents are from China and Taiwan – long story about how they moved from China to Taiwan during the cultural revolution. But grew up in LA since elementary school through college. Then moved to Bay Area for tech jobs, lived in many parts of the country, etc. and settling down here for now.

I started running in 2008. I wanted to give my kids an example of trying to push themselves and set a goal, like trying hard for a sport. So I did an example – watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics on TV, I saw that the marathon was a very difficult sport. If I could do a marathon, everything else would be easier. So while driving to work one day in October, I heard about the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon. I thought maybe I should try that – not as hard as a marathon, but still a good goal to show my kids.

Sorry for interrupting. What’s the longest distance you’ve run?

I did the New Year’s One Day run in Crissy Field in SF on Dec. 31. I did the 12-hour run, and ran 58 laps = 61 miles.

Back to the story…

So I heard about the SJ half marathon, and then I went to the website that night to check it out. It was on Sunday that coming weekend!

Had to think/decide if I was going to do that. IF I did do that, I made a quick training plan (having never run before). Run a few miles a day (from Tuesday), at the gym. 3 miles Tues, 3 miles Wed, 5 miles Thurs, 4 miles easy Friday, rest on Saturday.  All on the treadmill. That was my training!

Then I went to the Expo on Saturday, to possibly register, hoping that the event might be full, so I wouldn’t have to run. It was still OPEN, so I signed up. I bought a tank top and my first pair of running shorts at the expo. I ran in my gym shoes on Sunday. Ran the whole thing with just minor cramping after mile 8. Felt ecstatic afterwards, and couldn’t stop talking about it for days.

Right! We never forget the feeling of the first time we bust through a barrier like that. Incredible!

2 days afterwards I signed up for my next half marathon in Nov, just 1 month later, the US Half across the Golden Gate Bridge. That was hilly and tough. I brought my family to wait for me at the finish, but I took longer than expected, being hilly. When I finally finished, they said “What took you so long!!!” as they were upset for waiting so long. They never came with me to another race.

Then I signed up with Team In Training to try my first marathon, Napa Marathon in 2009. Cold and wet, not fun, but finished. That was the beginning!

You’ve won stuff outright, right? Or at least podiumed?

A few times. It gets easier as you get older!

Really? Winning is easier as you get older?

“Yes” mainly because I keep running and stay in there. Other people retire, get injured, or end up doing something else in life. I see other regular runner friends in their 60’s, 70’s, etc. not fast, but they keep placing because they just show up and finish.

Oh I see. Never thought about that. Makes sense. Thanks for that self-intro!

OK, now to the main topic.

In a nutshell, from your post in the FB link I placed above, last week, you bought Safeway groceries for a homeless woman and her kids in tow. She approached you in your car. You offered her a granola bar, she didn’t want that. So you offered to buy her some groceries. She ran up almost a $100 bill.

When I tallied up the comments …

  • 60% of them said you did a very good thing.
  • 40% said you were over-kind, that you got played. That next time you should direct people to a food bank. This prompted your idea to put food bank information on cards to hand out for the future.
  • 99% of the comments confirmed your generosity and outlier comments feared for your safety.

My question is: When did you start buying people food? How did this practice of being a Good Samaritan start?

I don’t remember when it started, maybe 5-6 years ago. One of the first times I did that was at the Jack in the Box on Ocean Ave in Santa Cruz, after I ran the Santa Cruz half marathon. I went there to eat after the race, and bought some burgers for someone outside asking for help.

I drive and travel around a lot. So I often eat out, but often go to McDonalds or fast food places – I’m cheap. But I’ve learned to eat more healthy fast food too. Once I gave a Toastmasters speech called “How I lost 25 pounds on a McDonald’s diet.” which was very popular – another story…

When I go to these places, I often see people on the street asking for money. I always feel guilty saying no, I’m an easy pushover. I don’t want to give them money, as I’ve heard it often goes to alcohol or drugs. So I figure, maybe I’ll just give them some food. I also now carry a small snack bag with me in the car most of the time. So it’s easy to pull out something from there to hand over. Usually granola bars. Once I tried giving a lady an apple, saying it’s healthy and good for you. She smiled big and pointed, “No teeth!”

He he!

When I go to a fast food place (often, after when I finish a race), I often find someone outside asking for money/food. Or maybe standing there needing help. Instead of money, I say, “Can I buy you some food instead?” or now “Would you like to come in and eat?” My lunches are $3-5 usually, so I usually buy the same things for them. If they ask for an expensive sandwich, I say, “I’m going to buy you what I eat.” 90% of the time, they are extremely grateful for whatever I buy for them and that makes me feel good.

Once I met a man standing in front of Sprouts market in Sunnyvale. He was very hungry. I forgot who suggested it, but I went in with him, and bought him a rotisserie deli chicken, whole, about $8. He took that with him and walked away, for his dinner that night, very happy. He didn’t ask for more. Plenty for himself.

Nice! Do you have conversations with the people you invite to eat at the fast food places?

Usually I let them go and eat on their own. They enjoy their own private time. Once a lady I treated reciprocated by giving me some planting seeds in return; a kind gesture.

I’m realizing now that buying these people snacks and food are only temporary fixes. They will be hungry again the next day. Not helping their problem. I’m glad I saw a couple people suggest from my post, to refer these people to the local food bank.

On the Public Health side which I’m studying now, poverty, income inequality, homelessness, etc.  These are all big social issues (“Social Determinants of Health”), which put people on the street.

Street people become even more exposed to dangers such as bad weather, no clothing, very low nutrition, no health care. All this will result in injury or sickness for them – caused by bad luck (from society) and other social issues.

It affects all of us, because many people don’t have health insurance. They go to the ER, get treated, and the hospital can’t collect from them. So the cost gets spread to everyone else – through higher hospital/clinic bills and higher insurance premiums. We all pay for it.

Yep, it’s much more expensive for a society without a health care safety net for all.

That’s why the recent repeal of the Mandate of Obamacare is bad. Obamacare required everyone to get/buy health insurance – that’s important to keep the system working and to keep rates and costs lower.

With the health insurance requirement taken off (last year in the new 2017 tax law), I’ve heard the news say about 20% of people this year are not renewing their health insurance. With fewer people in the insurance pool, costs will be higher for everyone else.

Ugh, OK. Hopefully the country goes in a better direction in 2020.

OK, so if buying groceries for people in need is something you do, because you’re awesome like that, why did you post about it this time?

A few things bothered me that day. One, I was trying to rush home to make my Wednesday night run with the club. Getting sidetracked by the lady made me nervous in being late. Two, it was very unusual that she was rather pushy – coming to my car directly. Then grabbing a cart and starting to grab stuff to put in it, without asking me for permission or what she was allowed to buy … very strange.

I said “I’ll buy you some food.” but I think she heard that as “I’ll buy you whatever food you want.” or “I’ll buy you a shopping spree.” My key learning – must be clear! LOL!

After the post and many replies, I realized that why I felt so uncomfortable was that I was in a new situation, where I didn’t know what to do, or how to respond. I wasn’t expecting the person to grab so many things – that never happened before.

Now I know if I buy someone food from a market – NO cart, NO basket. Just whatever (reasonable) you can carry in your hands.

Gottit. It was the first time you weren’t in full control of the situation but couldn’t articulate it until after you posted it.

Yes, I posted to share the incident. I felt weird, kind of bad. I thought I did something right or good, but I felt something wasn’t right. I’ve been learning to be cautious over the years.

This is fantastic because I was wondering if you were just going to give out food bank information cards. But it sounds like you will continue to buy food for people who are hungry AND give out cards. You will continue being you and doing what you do.

I know there are many scams out there, and fell for a few over the years, so I’ve learned to 1. Not rush, 2. Read the fine print. But vulnerable people asking for help is still one of my weak points. It’s easy to say No to a sales person, but hard to needy people on the street.

Wow. I have helped a lot of animals, but I’ve never fed anyone directly.

Yes, I plan to make those cards with food bank info – just need to draw it up. I will post that to share too, and offer to print cards for others too (very small extra cost for extra cards, in bulk from Vistaprint).

What would you like to see more of in the world, Riya?

There are endless ways in which we can help – we don’t have enough time or money to fix everything. But if we can give more education to everyone, that can help everyone learn to think better, make better decisions, understand facts and science better, and make the world better, and be better people – independent of religion, political party, race, etc.  That’s one way that can lead to many improvements everywhere else.

Thanks so much Riya!  This has been amazing. You’re a bona fide angel!  Good night and sleep well.

Dear readers, I’d love to know what sorts of Good Samaritan things you’ve done or maybe by someone you know. Please leave your comments on social media. Or you can also email your comments to theanimalrun@gmail.com. Thank you for being a part of this community.

By | 2019-03-01T00:27:53-08:00 February 3rd, 2019|The Betterment Project|0 Comments

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