May 23, 2012, Vol: 19, No: 21
A guy came up to me on the street, begging. He was a young guy and appeared to be physically healthy, although living on the streets can both break down your physical and mental health rather quickly. He wanted some spare change. So rather than just reach in my pocket for coins, I chatted with him a bit. One of my standard lines is to call attention to Real Change as a quick way to start making some money so that one can have a positive springboard to get back into life. But he didn’t want to sell papers, he just wanted some money. So I asked him his age and he began to tell me bits about his hard-living, hard-knocks life.
That’s certainly a pattern. After all, kids don’t grow up wanting to be homeless and beg spare change for a living. As we proceeded to chat, we talked about shelter options and employment options. Admittedly, all the options were slim pickings, but he really wasn’t too invested in trying. He was defeated, discouraged, and really all he wanted was some spare change. That was his life now. We the people were ATM machines from which he hoped he could score just enough coinage to suck some beers down his throat and maybe find a place to lay his head.
And yes, I gave him some spare change. I find that if I simply look away, don’t bother communicating, never take the homeless beggar seriously, then it’s easy to simply say no and walk away. But once I engage, actually chat a bit, it’s a lot harder to send another away with nothing but the words “good luck” or “God bless.”
Poverty never quits. It’s bad enough to be born in a family and environment of hard living and hard knocks, and its increasingly bad to try to get work when there isn’t much, to try to rent a room when there aren’t any, and, for a guy, to try to get a girl when you’ve got little but your increasingly banged-up looks to offer. Poverty of material goes hand-in-hand with poverty of spiritual means. It’s increasingly difficult to maintain one’s dignity as a bearer of God’s image when folks look at you like a worm. It’s hard to believe that the sun will rise
tomorrow when everything in your vision is dusk or dark. It’s almost impossible to believe that life is good when every moment is a struggle to survive, a struggle to escape violence and a struggle simply to eat, sleep and sit in safety. Beer helps, but it’s also addictive and diminishes one’s capacity to hope.
Which is worse: poverty of stuff or poverty of spirit? Actually it’s a nonsensical question because they are two sides of the same coin. What we need are new coins that offer better options.<< Back to Article Details