Seeing all the bums and beggars sprinkled at every other major intersection in the city has had the same effect as working or working out; with enough time and reps, the skin gets strong, hard, calloused. Kinda like almost every single person sitting behind the wheel of their car, stopped against their will, reading the signs of the beggars with a calloused heart. Me too.

There was a time when someone begging on the corner was a rarity. If they were there, times were tough indeed. They looked more like beggars back in the day.

a calloused heart

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Back when begging was about as rare as a solar eclipse, compassion came easy, immediately, and with a willing hand. A person’s gotta have big heart and desire to wrestle a wallet outta your pants or shorts or purse, that while fighting with the seatbelt strap that’s pleased as punch to slow you down when you’re trying to move quickly.

Funny how long it takes for the traffic lights to change… until you need a few more seconds.

I don’t dive for my wallet much these days. The beggars, in majority, have changed like the lives of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Not to mention the lives on the giving side that seem to have adopted the attitude of Rhett. We might not say, “Frankly, my dear… I don’t give a damn”, but our actions do it for us.

In fairness, it’s hard to give a hoot about folks that don’t fit the mold of the stereotypical beggar. It’s not uncommon for the person holding the sign to have better tennis shoes than the ones wrapped around my feet.

Not only that, but it’s becoming common place for the folks looking for a handout to be young, fit, and sportin’, not just cell phones, but smart ones.

She was different. She didn’t look so different at a glance, but something inside told me she was. The middle-aged woman wasn’t standing strategically in the shade to shelter her from the record-setting Arizona heat.

I don’t avoid eye contact, even if I’m not going to give anything to folks waiting for a handout, especially the ones that are young, strong, and with knees that are light years better than mine.

The woman’s eyes were desperate, scared… and for good reason; she was caught in the crosshairs of an angry Arizona summer day.

Without thought, I snatched my wallet out, knowing I had only the big bill I keep folded and tucked away that I keep for emergencies… preferably mine.

My hand touched hers when she reached through the passenger side window to grab the cash. Her hands were hard, dry, calloused… like my calloused heart… just moments before God reminded me of His willing hand and compassion on me.