One morning, while sitting at a red light, I saw a man with nothing to lose give up. It wasn’t like the movies. There was no musical score to mark his exit. No audible-inner dialogue to explain why he quit panhandling for a generous heart’s loose change.
“Homeless, anything will help,” read his now folded up and discarded sign. But, I understood that he really just misspelled “I need your compassion. I’ve been waiting for a miracle.”
As the light turned green, my car inched forward and he turned his back on traffic. I drove straight. And I watched him walk left in my rear-view mirror as cars like mine simply drove past him. As I continued to drive, I could not help but think to myself that only a sudden outpour of rain would make this situation any sadder.
The situation got sadder. And, as I turned my wipers on, I kept one eye in the rear-view mirror until I lost sight of him.
Now, I didn’t smell his breath so I can’t tell you whether he would’ve been likely to spend his morning’s wage on alcohol. And, I couldn’t see his skin through the dirt so I can’t comment on whether he would’ve spent the money (I didn’t give him) on a drug-filled syringe.
I can tell you, that at that red light, he limped away. And, he did not have an umbrella for the rain. I can tell you, that I didn’t give him any money. Because, like many, I thought that the worst thing you could do for the homeless was to fund their hustle or fuel their addiction one handout at a time. Now, I don’t even know if that it is true. But, I do know that it’s false for us to believe that all we have is our spare change and a few loose dollars to give.
You see, that man, and those like him, need hope. And our spare change will never equal the amount they receive when we smile and acknowledge that they exist, instead of sitting at a red light and hoping it turns green before our eyes meet.
They’ve lost their identity and they need to be reminded of who they are in places other than a jail’s booking station.
They need to see compassion in the form of your smile. They need hope thinly disguised as a “Good morning” or “Good night.” They need a reason while standing, sleeping or begging at a red light, requesting your compassion and waiting for God’s miracle, not to give up.
So, the next time you see the homeless, remember that you have so much more than your spare change and a few loose dollars to give.