So I had been listening to a lecture given by the Abbott Jonah Pauffhausen on the subject of Shame. In it, he navigates a minor (in length) tangent where he exhorts us to be cautious of objectifying people. The example he cites is when we ignore the homeless begging on the streets…to avert our eyes – as it were – is to truly depersonalize the individual.
Out to lunch later that afternoon I found myself waiting by the car for my coworkers to return from a trip to a nearby market. On the street corner I noticed an older man holding a sign and obviously asking pedestrians who were passing by for money. Fr. Jonah’s words came to mind as I also noticed that nobody…and I mean NOBODY even answered his request, looked at him, or in anyway acknowledged his existence. I felt really bad for him.
Reaching into my pocket I found two quarters…hmmm…I’d feel kinda stupid going up to him and offering him 50 cents. I mean, really, wouldn’t he be a little insulted with such a meager amount…. shouldn’t I at least have some paper bill(s) to offer? I could run around and try and find a cash machine…but then how much can I really give him if the machine only spits out 20’s? Round and round in my head the questions, excuses, and debate continued. I just stood and watched as more and more people completely ignored the man.
Fr. Jonah also said : Even if you do not have money…at least look at the person and talk to them. Acknowledge their existence and have compassion for their situation.
Okay, I decided, I would go and at least talk to him and tell him that all I had to give is 50 cents, but that he was welcome to it and that I hope that it would help him out in someway.
As I approached him I could eventually read his sign:
Can you please spare 50 cents?
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:53 AM [+]