Christmas Spirit, 2009
My wife and I spent our first Christmas away from Ohio, in 2006 in historic St. Augustine, Florida. We found all the places that sell chocolate and gelato in between visits to the 400 to 500 year old structures that help define the city’s history. We walked where Henry Flagler walked and even worshipped in a church that Flagler built. We heard a community chorus sing Handel’s Messiah and even ran across an old friend who I worked with at Merrill Lynch in the early 70’s. Part of the relaxation is to find a comfortable place around the historic landmarks and soak up the surroundings.
While sitting on a bench in the middle of this historic place, a slovenly dressed young man in his 20’s sat down next to me. He pulled out a sign that said “hungry need food” and placed it in front of him on the sidewalk. He then pulled out some reading materials from his backpack and took his stocking cap to prop up the sign. Next he placed a dollar bill and some change in the hat to prime the pump for additional donations. My first reaction to this was to observe that this young man looked strong enough to be working rather than sitting on his butt waiting for handouts. Next, he found in his backpack some smokes and started working on a cigarette. As he is kicking back to work on his reading, along came people who did place money in the hat. The young man did not say thank you or even acknowledge the gifts. My indignation is growing with each observation as the beggar is showing more entitlement than gratitude for those contributing to his needs. I was not going to get sucked into this scam!
My quandary is whether to lecture this kid on the value of work, preach to him about work from the Bible, or take him by the hand to a place down the street that has a sign asking for applicants for work. The next thing I know at least six (6) more street people walk by him to check and see how the gig is going and whether he is getting any money.
As my tactical and judgmental strategy is about to kick in, a man in a wheelchair who is barely able to move his chair comes out of the alley nearby and moves slowly toward us. This man is quite heavy and not very well dressed and clearly has not had a bath in a long time. As he slowly approaches us, I’m thinking that he is coming to set up shop along side this deadbeat kid and now the area will have to support both of them. The man in the wheelchair doesn’t do that at all. He creeps up to the young man and says “Have you eaten anything?” The young man says “no not for several days”. The slovenly dressed man in the wheelchair takes out a few grubby dollar bills from his pocket and gives the young man half of them. “Here, he says, you need to eat something!” They both disappeared into the back streets of the city!
Who is my brother’s keeper?
MERRY CHRISTMAS, DLS
Monday Morning Message Sent 12/21/09
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