The man stood by the crossing holding a cardboard sign that read: “Work for food.” I wondered how long he had stood there in the oppressive heat with nothing to cover his balding head. By his feet lay a plastic shopping bag, a back-up sign, and what looked like a tarp from some military surplus store, heaped with all his meager belongings.
I began to wonder as I drove away if he would eat that day. Would a concerned soul offer him a job or a meal; it was getting late in the afternoon. I tried to catch a parting glimpse of him via the rear-view mirror. I thought to myself, “Was he homeless perhaps? Or maybe just an itinerant wanderer?” I didn’t know what to think. But I’ve always been one to lean toward the right – that if I have to wash dishes, flip burgers or dig ditches to eat I would. It bothered me to think about how could such a man allow himself to descend into the pits so that he has to beg for food?
I know I am judging and I shouldn’t. Forgive me. There are a myriad reasons why we do the things we do. For all I know he could be an undercover agent on a stake out. Or a man stepping out to avoid being sequestered at home with his nagging wife. Who knows? And here I am playing “here come the judge…”.
I arrived at the grocery store, bought the items on my shopping list and on the way out stopped at the store’s food counter. “A double cheeseburger, fries, large soda to go please.” I retraced the same route home. Yup there he was, sign in hand, still hoping, still waiting. Pulling over to the side where he stood I turned on my emergency signal as I stepped out of my vehicle to approach him. A surprised look formed on his face. He probably expected me to offer him a job. I handed him the bag of food. “Just a little something… hope it helps.”
Reaching for the bag, he looked into my eyes momentarily. I saw his eyes grow misty. They glistened in the afternoon sun. He took hold of the bag and with a parched voice he said, “May God bless you brother. Thank you.” I wept all the way home. I know the statistic: We are only one paycheck away from being homeless.