Jesus with a Cardboard Sign

22 03 2010

Yesterday, after leaving church I came upon a homeless man with a cardboard sign.  I’ve known several homeless people, but I’ve never known one that held a cardboard sign.  I’ve never known a homeless person who knew one who held a cardboard sign.  I had developed a theory that the sign-holders are a mysterious class of individuals claiming to be among the homeless without actually being one.  Generally, they seem to have the manner of one who has become accustomed to living upon the generosity of others.

Yesterday was different.  He seemed ashamed of himself.  He was a younger man, which is unusual.  His face was downcast and he kept running his fingers through his hair.  Something about him haunted me.  I felt certain that I might have known him from somewhere.  He seemed familiar, but I didn’t know why.  I pulled into the shopping mall, turned around and worked my way back to the same left-turn lane that I had been in, so that I could get close enough to speak to him.  I felt that I was on the verge of sobbing, and I wasn’t sure why.  This is highly unusual for me.  At the intersection, I managed to be the first car in line, right next to the man.  I rolled down my window and spoke to him.  I tried to help him in some fleeting way.  He spoke clearly, like an educated man.

I saw myself standing on that center median, in my mind.  Inside the mall, people were buying and wearing clothes priced at a day’s wages per piece.  Some stores sold watches and jewelry at two year’s wages.  Most stores were so elegant that I was afraid to enter them, lest I accidentally snag a sweater and be guilty of felony vandalism.  Everyone was strutting around with their mental eyes watching themselves.  They all paid way too much for what they did not need, much of which was torn and patched like the clothes of a homeless man.  I have never understood that style.  Clearly, they had an abundance of wealth.  They were throwing it away on worthless junk.

Just outside, there was someone that society would treat as less than worthless.  I have never been so nauseated by materialism in all my life.  If another man’s needs are regarded as less than the trash that I hardly have any use for; nay, if his life is worth less than a tenth of a percent of any of that crap, then I must be a most evil man.

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