Where Is Your Christmas Spirit? (Begger Or Imposter)
My wife and I are spending our second Christmas away from Ohio, and I was reminded of our trip to historic St. Augustine, Florida last year. We found all the places that sell chocolate and gelato in between visits to the 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 segments of Handel's Messiah and even ran across an old friend who I worked with at Merrill Lynch in the early 70's. This turned out to be a great way for us to enjoy each other's company and also soak up some of the history of our country. I also found myself shopping or waiting for my wife to finish shopping.
While sitting on a bench, one of the mornings, a young man in his 20's sat down next to me and 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; set a stocking cap next to the sign; and placed a dollar bill and some change in it to show people what he expected for them to do. My reaction to this was pretty quick as I thought that this young man looked strong enough to be working rather than sitting on his butt waiting for handouts. Then he found in his backpack some smokes and started working on a cigarette. As he is kicking back smoking and reading, sure enough along came some people and they did place some money in the hat and he did not say thank you or even acknowledge the gifts. My quandary was 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 had a sign offering work to worthy applicants. The next thing I know at least six (6) more street people walk by him and check out how the gig is going and ask whether he is getting any money and should they set up down the way. Mr. Merrill Lynch is now getting very upset because he knows a little bit about street smarts and this kid is pushing way to far for his comfort zone. My evaluation of this young man's need is that he needs to get off his duff and get a job and change his bad luck with honest work.
As my tactical strategy is about to kick in, a man in a wheelchair who is barely able to move his chair comes out of the alley next to a store 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". The slovenly dressed man in the wheelchair takes out a few dollar bills from his pocket and gives the young man half of them. He made no subjective evaluations like I did, but merely showed compassion for a young man who was down on his luck. They both disappeared into the day!
When we see street people, does it make any difference how they got there? Should my reaction to their needs depend on their history? As you enjoy the greatest gift of all, did God hold back his Son because of our sins? He actually sent HIS SON despite our history!
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10
MERRY CHRISTMAS, DLS
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