Several times a week, I face forward, march onward and ignore the hands outstretched.
“Can you spare 50 cent?”
Do I usually have 50 cent in my wallet? No. But would I give it if I did? Doubtful.
Heard a woman speaking to a begging man. He said, “I could really use 50 cent.” She said, “So could I.” I celebrated her in my head. Why did I celebrate her in my head?
I see inspiring posts online about people having meals with the homeless. I’ve done it once. I remember feeling so proud of my selflessness that day. I’m such a good person, I told myself. I gave someone my precious time, I told myself.
This week a homeless man came into my store and laid five dollars worth of change onto my bar. I thought maybe he wanted a coffee. I had to convince myself to treat him like a customer first rather than tell him he needed to leave. I mean I really had to convince myself this guy was worthy of my customer service. He actually just wanted a five dollar bill in exchange for all these coins, which we don’t do, but my manager led it slide this time, seeing as our bar was covered in coins already. He tipped us 40 cent for our service to him. I didn’t expect that. I only expected him to be a beggar.
Today I walked by an elderly person I see often. He is homeless. His hair is so long, I thought he was a woman the first time I saw him on my street, where he generally hangs. The smell was so unpleasant. Have you ever been into a gas station bathroom? One in the middle of nowhere so the entrance is actually outside the building? Was it disgusting? That’s what the smell was like. I felt bad, but I didn’t do anything. I walked by like usual.
I was just walking to the mailbox, so I turned around and walked by again a few seconds later when I heard a voice behind me say, “Yo, you smell like piss.”
It was a boy. Couldn’t be more than 11 or 12 years old.
“You smell like piss.”
Seriously?, I asked myself. HOW could you neglect to tell your child it’s never okay to speak to a person that way? Doesn’t he know homeless people are just like him, they just have less? I thought about it all day. I thought about how rude it was to use such harsh words again someone.
But then I thought about how I do the same thing, just with my actions. Oy. I see someone ask for money and I automatically label them as… what? Less than? Not as important as me? Do I really need to hang onto my 50 cent that hard? Sure, it’s laundry money. Quarters are important to me. But. Come on. Are they that important?
I tell myself I can’t realistically give to every person that asks me. That’s true. But couldn’t I just give once?
Living in New York is hard. In theory, back in college, I was so good at helping the less fortunate. I thought. I’d buy a guy a coffee in the rain if he asked. Happened once. Bought a woman a coke once. A guy on the street told me that was so nice of me and I felt proud again.
Who am I kidding. I’m faced daily with putting my words into action. And I fail daily. This is not a blog with an ending. This is a confession. This is saying it took the rude words of a young boy to reveal my own selfishness to me. This is thanking New York for metaphorically punching me in the gut daily and thanking God for being graceful and healing my sinful wounds.
I’ve written countless times about believing in a God that calls me to fight injustice and I allow it to happen by my own hand. I am the wicked man I read about in Proverbs. The unwise one who knows not how to care for others. I am the one rejecting justice. I am a liar in my witness.
1 John 2:1-6
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
I feel very… And I hate this word.. Convicted. I feel convicted. I have grown to hate this word because it implies that I still have things to work on. Nobody likes that. Nobody wants to admit they are sinful and weak and guilty and selfish, but gosh, I am.
Easter is coming up. Every Sunday, we do communion and whoever is speaking says “prepare your hearts” and it sounds so cliche, but I get it now. Prepare my heart knowing I need the body and the blood, broken and spilled on my behalf. I feel the weight of that now. I feel it.
I need a savior who cares about justice way more than I ever could. Who loves people way more than I ever could. Who gave way more than 50 cent. Who gave his life. Who defeated death. Who put sin into the grave and rose up with grace. Who gave me freedom.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.