Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day Fifteen - Food For Thought

We have all seen the panhandlers on the side of the road--you know the ones I'm talking about.  Those same ones you try not to make eye contact with when you pull up beside them at a stop light holding up their cardboard signs begging for food or work.  I'm guilty of avoiding them too.  I try to justify it to myself . . . I think, "if I give them money, they are just going to go get drunk."  I've even heard the argument that the beggars with their cardboard signs and filthy clothes make immense amounts of money (tax free) each year and it is more advantageous for them to beg than to work. This way of thinking is crap and deep down, I think we all know it.  Who are we to judge and decide who is worthy of our generosity and charity?  Who does not have a spare handful of change--tiny amounts that you will never miss?  How can we turn a blind eye to a sad and lonely HUMAN being on the side of the road who must resort to the humiliating act of begging?  I can't do it.  Even if they do go buy a six-pack with the money, what difference does that make in my life?  The other important question is what unspeakable thing could have happened to that person to reduce them to live and scrounge on the streets?  I know some of you may be thinking, "well, they chose that life through the choices they've made."  Again, I ask you . . . who are we to judge?

Many days, I drive by a street corner downtown where the same man stands in the same spot with a tattered sign and filthy clothes.  He always wears the same clothes and his hair and beard are long, grey and unkempt.  He looks like a dirty version of God to me.  You know--the image of God in long white robes with flowing white hair, standing on the top of a mountain surveying his people.  At least that's the image I have.  Sometimes I give him a few bucks, sometimes the light is green and I can get by without having to stop.  Either way, I feel sorrow, pity and guilt.  The guilt comes from the fact that I am driving my Lexus SUV in my designer duds while this man clearly lives at or below poverty level and I'm guessing by the looks of him, he sleeps in an area where a large community of homeless people congregate below one of the highway underpasses in the area.

But today was different . . . today I had a car full of groceries and a beautiful, warm, whole roasted chicken in a bag on the front seat of my car.  It was going to be dinner for my family tonight - something easy so I wouldn't have to cook.  As I was approaching the corner and saw the man in the distance, I first starting thinking of digging in my wallet but the smell of the chicken wafting through the car gave me an idea.  When I pulled up to the corner, I reached over and grabbed the chicken and handed it to the man's waiting outstretched hands.  At first he looked a little surprised--I mean, it is a bit comical if you visualize it, but after a second he realized that he had a hot meal.  Our eyes met and he was filled with gratitude.  The light changed to green and as I drove off, he said, "God bless you."  I will never forget the cloudy blue eyes as they smiled in genuine thankfulness.  "No, I whispered to myself . . . God bless YOU."

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."  ~ Mother Teresa 

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