The other day I was driving and saw a man holding up a cardboard sign. As it happened, the light turned red and I stopped right beside him. I had seen that the sign read “Out of work, trying my best, please help, God bless you.”
In that instant I felt I was standing there, holding a sign with the same message. What would it be like to be that desperate that your only option was to hold up a sign and hope for help? How would it feel to have tried the best you could to get work and not been able to get a job? How much of your pride would you have to swallow to beg for money, food, a chance?
I understand how many of us automatically think that someone like this may just be scamming people for money and preying on their sympathy. I realize that some who beg may just be going to use the money for drugs and/or alcohol. But dear God, what if they really are in such need that they are willing to put that need out in front of us all?
I can’t judge every person; I can barely manage myself. I can’t know what anyone on the street or in dire need feels like. I have been so lucky to have grown up with love and kindness, food and shelter, comfort and care, education, clothing, and so much more.
All I can be sure of is that whenever I feel the need to give, I do. I don’t give much; I don’t have that much to give. But based on that tug in my heart, I rolled down my window and spoke to the man. He turned to me, and I saw a face steeped in a mixture of sadness, shame and resignation. I passed him two dollars and told him, “things will get better for you.” He thanked me, smiled and said that things couldn’t get any worse. I told him that I would keep him in my prayers that things would improve soon for him.
It was only two dollars. It was only one man with a sign. The light changed to red just as I got to where he stood. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in being at the right place at the right time. I don’t fool myself that two dollars will help much, but I do believe in acknowledging that man. In the past, I would have kept my eyes forward, and been embarrassed for him, but sweating for the light to change so that I could just go–and forget.
With so much negativity, callousness, selfishness, arrogance, anger and fear all around us, we must not lose hope. We must not forget that one person can affect change. We can’t forget that anything, good or bad, can happen to us at any time. Life often changes in an instant, and I can’t judge anyone because I am not them.
But I can do what my heart tells me to do. And maybe that’s enough for now.