"In his shoes"?
The first time I noticed beggars in the intersection I thought, "isn't that illegal?" Well, in the U.S. it probably is. Impeding the flow of traffic or something. In Brazil, it's the best way to expose yourself to lots of people with lots of money. If they're driving a car, they've got something to spare. Often times, I see people hand a beggar some change. I told Maicol beggars like that aren't so common in the U.S. Or at least I hadn't noticed them until today. It's been raining non-stop for three days. He was in a wheelchair, yellow poncho that didn't cover his head fully, dripping wet and no shoes. His socks were gray and dirty, and sopping wet. He held out a to-go cup and his head hung low. He appeared to have a disability of some type. My first thought many of you might relate to, "if I give him my money, he might waste it on drugs. he may even be faking it! maybe he's not really poor and disabled". And then my second thought, which I haven't had until recently. Maicol and I have been talking about empathy. Getting in someone else's shoes to understand their perspective better. "In his shoes"? He didn't even have shoes! For crying out loud, the man was soaking wet and in a wheel chair. Even if he was a fake, he sure was working hard at it. If a man is willing to show his face in public and beg, that alone shows his desperation. What if someone recognized him? Most certainly, someone does recognize him, and he knows it. I'm sure the glares and mocking looks can be enough to make you want to quit. But to see one healthy shopper after the next walk by and not offer a penny? That would make me too angry to even want the next person's penny. Forget that. Begging. It's a weighty word. To put yourself at the mercy of apathetic, snide, better off than you strangers - that takes a lot of courage. And it takes giving up a whole lot of dignity. Sure, there are those who play the game and put on a show because they care more about drug money than dignity. But I imagine that wasn't the case today. A hard day at work? You earned your wage, it was worth it. I may be out there a bit, but this man quite possibly musters more strength to get out and beg each day than many of us do on our most challenging work days. He puts it all out on the line, day after day, for PENNIES. And to think I hadn't noticed him, or others like him before. Not because they weren't before me, but because I've been too haughty in my own shoes for too long. It may be time for me to take off my shoes. I handed him 85 cents. I should have given him more. As I was walking away, I heard a faint “thank you”, it sounded like he struggled to get it out. That should have been me, thanking him. Struggling to explain to him that he opened my eyes today to something God's been trying to teach me and my stubborn heart for some time now. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.