I had to make a Walmart run recently to purchase a few small items. As I turned into the store’s parking lot, a man sat on a folding tripod in soiled pants, tennis shoes, a t-shirt, flannel shirt, and a green jacket. His hands were soiled. I could see grime under his long nails. He wore a long gray beard that made him resemble a 50-something Harley rider.
As I stopped at the four-way stop sign in order to proceed farther into the store parking lot, I watched a man in a black Ford F-250 roll down his passenger window and the girl in the truck’s passenger’s seat extended her hand to the man who arose from the folding tripod seat. He took the bills the girl handed him and sat back down on his seat, as if by rote.
Another car stopped by and extended a bag of food from the Wendy’s fast food business adjacent to the Walmart. He sat the bag of food on a concrete pillar next to him.
I waited my turn and then passed through the intersection and entered the parking lot, found an open space, parked, turned off the car, walked inside, and purchased the items needed.
When I exited the store, I noticed how sunny and cool it was out. A sign on the window in flourescent orange read HELP WANTED. I pushed my cart into the corral for shopping carts, retrieved my purchased items, placed them in the back of the car, cranked the car, and proceeded to head home.
When I got to the four-way stop sign, I looked over at the man. He was holding something. He was concentrating. So I watched closely. He was holding an iPhone. It was inside a green protective case. He was texting. I could see his dirty hands typing away in a message. The Wendy’s bag was still on the concrete pillar beside him. And he was still sitting on his folding tripod.
The cars kept entering and exiting in steady rhythm. Some drivers paused and watched him, as I had done. Other drivers pretended not to see him. Others rolled down their windows and handed him change, or cash, or food. His expression remained fixed regardless of people’s responses: blankness. Numbness.
It is hard for me to know. A HELP WANTED sign in the world’s largest retailer just a hundred yards from a man petitioning for charity. And the iPhone. I don’t think they are cheap. But at the same time, he did look dirty, unkempt, and his skin was red and windburned, and he had the appearance of one familiar with drink. At such times it is, for me at least, hard to know the right thing to do.
2 thoughts on “Hard to Know”
I have been told, Jon that a Christian should give and what the person dotes with the gift should be left between the person and God. Remind me to tell you my Varsity experience. This is a hard thing to think on for those of us that want to help.
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I look forward to speaking with you about it, dear brother. Love you guys.