A cynic and a guy with a sign

I know I’m supposed to be a cynic. I’m an educated, thinking person. I’ve heard the stories about people who take advantage with their fake signs.

I know I’m not supposed to be moved by the guy standing at the interstate ramp with the sign saying that he and his wife lost everything and just need some help to get back on their feet.

I’m supposed to shake my head and say, “Why doesn’t he just get a job?” or “I’ll bet he’s just looking for drugs or alcohol.” Or “Who has time to stand on the street asking for money?” Or “Doesn’t he know there are organizations that I give to that help people like him?”

I often walk past these people and ignore them. Life is busy and I don’t have the energy to judge someone’s motives in the midst of the hectic-ness of life. To decide whether he and his wife are really deserving of my charity.

Well, recently the women’s ministry at my church put together these things called blessing bags. They have a bottle of water and a few nonperishable things. It’s not a lot, but it’s something that says I thought of you and God moved me to share what He blessed me with.

I gave the first one away when I was leaving Traders Joe’s just before Thanksgiving. I had been buying food to serve at the feast I served at my home. I was struck by the difference between generosity and excess. Did I want to prepare a Thanksgiving feast to bless others or show off my centerpiece? Do I care about people in need?

For the second one, I saw a man standing at the interstate exit ramp, standing with a cardboard sign. His wife was sitting at the streetlight while he walked up and down the sidewalk. I saw him and I knew I wanted to give him one of the bags.

We don’t always pick these moments. People aren’t always appreciative the way they’re supposed to be, but he was. I didn’t get to talk to him, except to tell him “God bless you.” I would love to tell him about the hope that I have in Jesus and maybe I will some day. His wife waved to me from the streetlight.

I almost cried and I’m not a person who cries a lot. I couldn’t deny that I was moved. I was overwhelmed with my own need for Christ and my own lack of appreciation for the good things in my life. My desire to know how to love the people around me. My sadness that not everyone has a warm bed and a loving community to support them.

I know that’s not the point. I am not the point.

But maybe it is part of the point. Maybe if I saw myself as a sinner in need of grace, I would care more about the people around me. Maybe recognizing my need is the first step to understanding why it’s important to give. Even if I can’t judge someone’s motives.

One Reply to “A cynic and a guy with a sign”

  1. True… Very very true… Reading Ann Voskamp also reminded me to count my blessings- something that I can so easily overlook many times or even forget to even count.

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