HIGH ALERT

I spotted the pudgy kid immediately as he sauntered into the outside eating space from the sidewalk flanking the main road. I’d just plowed down an egg white omelette and a salad; the kind of meal that leaves you starvin’ like Marvin about an hour and half later. But that didn’t keep me from being being on high alert.

The young man’s thick brown locks were disheveled, his heavy beard matted, and his clothes were nice, but dirty. I knew right away he’d been sleeping outside.

After a lifetime of being on high alert I knew almost instantly the kid wasn’t dangerous. I also knew, for whatever reason, he had no pride, and I mean the good kind of pride. The kind of pride that makes you give a darn about how you look and how you live.

I noted his brand name dirty tennis shoes with the laces dragging the ground as he shuffled his way toward the first table. They were an older couple that were waiting for their food to be brought out from the French lunch eatery. I tuned my ears to the occasion.

image courtesy of colourbox.com

“Do you have a couple dollars you can spare?” the kid asked.

I couldn’t hear the gruff white haired man’s response, but I recognized the scowl. The kid turned away unabashed and undeterred and hit the next table in line; a group of middle aged women gossiping over afternoon coffee. They too sent the begging youngster packing.

I can’t think of too many times I see people begging, and a lot of folks are doing it these days, and I’m not forced to consider Jesus’ take on matters. Then Paul’s…

I know Christ said if someone sues you for your coat give him your shirt also. All of the Beatitudes speaks to the heart of the downtrodden. The kid was downtrodden, how or why I could only speculate.

Paul never minced his words and in his letter to the Thessalonians addressing the lazy people was no different; “If you don’t work you don’t eat.”

The begging kid wasn’t in any danger of starving to death and didn’t look like he’d ever been deprived of a donut.

My heart breaks for women begging.

I guess ’cause I’m a man that has lived outside in the elements by night and worked by the sweat of my brow by day, showering twice a week at the price of a buck a pop at the local YMCA, makes me less than sympathetic to able mind and bodied men in their prime begging.

I was next in the path of the kid begging and he knew my answer as soon as he looked me dead in the eye, but he asked anyway.

“You gotta a couple dollars?” he asked.

“No,” I said louder than I meant to as I was shaking my head.

Perhaps I was wrong? I’ve learned that as much as I’m on high alert to physical things, I need to be on high alert on matters of the heart as well. It’s easy to judge others by my life and standards… too easy.