Wednesday, May 04, 2005

of dignity and recycling cans

i sat across from my friend we'll call mack, at the family dinner tonight. he invited me to sit with him and i took my seat just as he and some of his fellow homeless friends were discussing prime spots to get recyclable objects for money, in the city. i now know that going to a bar's dumpster at the end of the night is the hit.

he segued at one point telling me how he had decided to wait outside the big safeway on castro, while his friend went outside to purchase something, to smoke a cigarette. a guy, with eyes downcast, tried to hand mack a $10 spot. mack kind of looked at the money and said, "why are you trying to give that to me? i don't need it."

at this part in the story mack's two friends pipe in, saying that for some reason people always try to hand them cash too and can't figure out why. now, i'm surveying these guys and they visually are not your typical hard core image of the homeless. the grime and dirt on them is only two layers deep as opposed to fifteen, and there is no stench emanating from them at all. so it kind of made me wonder also.

"why didn't you take the money?"

mack and his friend pedro looked at me and with a sober expression respond that it's because of pride. to which i ask, "what's the difference then between dignity and pride? because what you're saying seems to align more with dignity." mack explains that he sees these two descriptors as two sides of the same coin- one as the emotion and the other as the result. we then ensued discussing my stance on not giving money to the homeless, but instead giving food. mack agreed and told me when he used to make a lot of serious cash on the streets selling drugs, he would rather buy a homeless person a $15 meal than give them the 15 because it would probably end up being spent to be injected into an arm or snorted up a nostril.

but it also makes me think about me and you and what mack, my homeless friend cum sage can teach us. here he is HOMELESS, but knowing when he has enough. and being sated with that.

who out of us, if offered free money, would turn it down?

and yet i see so much of jesus stamp on mack- a little matthew 6 that speaks of sparrows and lilies of the valley; and an imprint of imago dei of the dignity of knowing when enough is enough.

and i think also of his response "i don't need that." i would hope we inside-dwellers could realize that often what the homeless need is not a hand out of cash or even sometimes an apple. instead we'd see that sometimes they need some ears willing to open up and drink in their stories, other times they need eyes to see them- not peer through them like they're invisible and maybe sometimes it's dedicating some time to realize that loving our neighbor means spending time with our neighbor in his/her turf and learning how he/she needs to be loved to receive it as such.


Blogger adam said...

thanks for sharing that story. i heard someone say once that perhaps are call is not so much "giving" to the needy but sharing - as sharing requires much more of an investment of self.

10:57 AM  

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