Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are We Not All Beggars?

Last week, I was walking over to the grocery store near my office and was approached by a beggar, late 30's or early 40's, who asked if I could buy him some food. I said "of course" and we promptly walked over to Wendy's, where he ordered a Biggie sized chicken sandwich combo to go. He smelled like a bucket of urine, poor guy, and he had a story ready to go when I asked about his hard times. Who am I to judge its validity? I was really trying not to in my head, and failing miserably because it sounded like a bit of a stretcher. Either way I wished him well and tried to be encouraging.

As I was walking out of Wendy's, I hadn't gone a hundred yards around the corner before being approached by another homeless man who asked what I was reading. I had been walking with an open book--Gilead (the latest book team selection, and a beautiful reread for me). We talked the basics of literature for a moment before he turned the conversation to God, the LDS faith, substance abuse, etc. This man liked to talk and though very quirky, a pleasant enough man to be around.

I always find myself in that situation wanting to speak to that person as a 17 year old kid, and talk of hopes, aspirations, and dreams. I am so eaten with curiosity over the chain of events that has led them to that moment. As I didn't have any cash on me to satisfy his petition, we said our goodbyes and he stopped me, turning around and said, "You are you, and I am me. But we are the same person, you know?"

I suppose there is some truth in that.


Tim said...

A friend told me a story once.... he was going down the freeway with his buddy in the driver's seat and they were passing the state prison. The driver turned to my friend and said, "You know, there is only one thing that separates me from the men in that prison."

"Yeah, what's that?"


If we were born to different parents, or something in our development was slightly altered. Maybe we chose to zig instead of zag. A different circumstance could have brought me in front of some Wendy's somewhere begging for food. You are a good man Les. I probably would have told him to take a hike.

Les said...

It really is a fascinating thing to consider. Circumstance has a lot to do with it, as you have pointed out. But I'm guessing you would agree with me in saying that it isn't the "only" seperator. You bring up "choice" for one (and I'm definatly not saying these homeless men chose to become what they are). We are a product of so many factors that it renders judgement virtually impossible. I think we need to be more open minded, and to strive for more understanding, and certainly more compassionate because who knows what dark pasts these people come from?

Andy Larisch said...

i love reading your blogs Les. its always nice to keep in touch with ya, even if its only through our blogs. Like tim said, you really are a good man, very inspirational.

Les said...

I appreciate both of your kind words, although I didn't mean this to be a look-at-me-give-money-to-the-poor post. I trust that any person with a heart will make an honest decision to give or not give (both of which may be right given certain circumstances).

Thanks for thinking I'm good. Maybe that's just another way of saying you are my friends. I think everyone I consider a "friend" is good too.

The Goughs said...

Oh Les - you truly are a good man. I enjoyed the post and I agree completely with the title. You struck a cord with me when you commented about the past's of these said "bums" or anyone else's for that matter. We really don't know where anyone is coming from or what they may have been through. I wonder, though, if it's like staring down the barrel of a gun the moment someone decides to become a homeless wanderer or if it's something entirely different, almost gradual...and suddenly they are there...hmmm. I guess it doesn't matter, but what does matter is you helped someone in need. You can't feel bad about that.

James said...

Great post Les.

I watched the autopsy of two homeless men the other day and it made me so sad to think of how these two men had ended up. They had come into this world and been given a name and they left a number. A number that quite possibly nobody knows is gone for good.