Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Man on a Corner

I was struck in my heart today… but before I can explain it, let me set a mental stage. 

It starts with this word: Panhandler (or even possibly homeless)

You may have noticed there are those who sit, almost smugly, on a particular street corner and beg for money—every day. I find myself very not inclined to give them money. Perhaps it’s a sense that if they were really trying to do something about their situation, really trying to build a life—instead of just inhabit one—they wouldn’t be there every day, begging... more like expecting. 

Then there are those others… the guys I’ll gladly give my money to. You often see them in more metropolitan areas. They’ll rush out—with Windex and paper towels in hand—when you’re stopped at a long light, and they’ll ask if they can wash your window in exchange for a dime or two. I’ve had a pretty stellar window washing by one of those guys. I wondered, how did he do that so fast? I would have taken twice as long as the light was red. Yet he completed a great job in time for me to pay him, allowing him to get out of the street before the light even changed. Like I said, I gladly give money to those guys. They’re offering something. They understand giving. Yes… giving to get, but their approach doesn’t seem selfish to me—just focused.

Today I saw a man sitting on the corner. I’d never seen him before, and looking at him, I could see he wasn’t sitting there because he expected something, but he wasn’t offering anything either. He wasn't because he didn’t feel he had anything to offer. Short on hope, panhandling was his only option. That's how he seemed and how I regarded him—how I’ll remember him. He had a sign. It simply read: 

I Need.

I read it, and involuntarily said, “You and me both, Buddy."

I sensed his desperation, and it roused a similar desperation in me. I didn’t stop. I felt I had nothing to offer him. 

As I passed by I whispered my apology to the air. Then I thought I have so much—meaning so much stuff—in essence I’m rich (but not in dollars), yet I have almost nothing to give... at this time in my life definitely no money to give. I thought of how unimportant so many of the things I own are. And how I just neededthis, or just needed to do… that. How so much of what I own serves no valuable purpose. I have a friend who is selling his PS3 to try to buy something more useful. When I asked him why he bought it originally. He paused and said, "To say I had a PS3." He shook his head and added, "It seems so stupid... when I say it out loud." I told him, "Yeah... it does, but a lot of people wouldn't have been that honest." 

Sure his PS3 was a waste, but I’ve wasted much too. If I hadn’t, I would have been able to give more, help more, provide for others more often. I feel badly that I didn’t even try to encourage the man on the corner. 

That was a moment when my own—self induced—desperation struck me. I Need. 

Yes, I need money just like everyone, and frankly need it badly now, but... I Need.

I Need... to be more giving.

I Need... to be less taking.

I Need... to be the man I long to be; who cares for others most; who lives a life of humble service; who asks what can I give? (even if the giving gets me something... am I giving with that intent?) am I living a life I would be proud to share with others...? to say this is how you should live?

I Need... to encourage others... and I will... I can... I have the ability to succeed written into my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual DNA. I just have to keep that in mind.

So to you who might be like me: Think about the man whose sign read “I Need” (send a prayer up for him) and ask yourself—as I’m now doing—even while I need, how can I be better prepared to give?

To you who have it down better than I. Keep it up. The world needs you, and guys like me do finally get a clue.

For this moment this is what I have to give….


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