It’s Saturday morning, I’m sitting at a Starbucks drinking coffee, and a guy walks in with those funny shoes where each toe is separated, like you’re feet have scales painted on them or something. I watched him walk to the door in slow motion. He had small John Lennon-style sunglasses with a green hue, a shaved head, earrings in each ear, and a green iPad under his arm. He walked in, stopped just inside, looked around a little, said hello to a couple others who gave him the nod, and sat down in a leather chair by the door. Straightaway, he launched into this thing about people begging for money. I could tell right away from his accent he was German. That explains the semi-eccentric clothes. Europeans dress a little different.
So he tells the guy next to him, “There was a guy holding a sign begging for money down on the street this morning.. I told him there were lots of cans along the highway and he could get money for those, so he wouldn’t have to stand there like that. But the guy just laughed and said, ‘I do way better like this and it’s so much easier than working.’”
Working. Interesting. I’m sure he does. There was a time when I almost did that around Christmas time in Nashville just to see how much I could rake in during rush hour on the exit ramp off I-65 at Harding Rd.. There were always guys there and every time I came back from work, I wondered what the total haul from a night standing there would be. I had it planned out and almost did it, but never got around to it in the end. I sort of wish I had, but oh well.
But back to the work thing. He said it was easier to do it that way than to work. It’s funny there are so many ways to look at things. I know people who would rather get cans off the highway than beg at a light with a sign even for less money. To me, that would be easier because it’s not as humiliating and more in my control.
In fact, for me, it’s more work to stand at the light than to go get the cans-harder to be still than to move, harder to face people and ask for something than to get it myself.
The dictionary defines work as,
“…activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”
Well, that means almost everything is work. Going to a plant and putting in a day making a product, jogging, cleaning the house; there’s nothing even in there about money. In fact, under that definition, prostitution and terrorism are work too. The devil works hard every day… and every night.
So that means both approaches are work. Does it have to be a positive contribution to society in order for me to call it work? Maybe the guy at the light with the sign is a positive contributor too. If we’ll always have the poor, then maybe it’s not my job to change him. He’s in the food chain in a certain spot that will always be occupied. If I encourage him to gather the cans, someone else will pick up the sign and stand there. Maybe I should tell him to go and get a job and take the sign from him and stand there myself. Then again, I don’t get paid for my job, so he probably wouldn’t even want it. I don’t do it for the money anyway. I do it because I believe in what I’m doing.
Work serves many purposes. Partly, it’s good to have something to do as per the old adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I get that, but believing in what you do is rewarding on a level that goes deeper than passing the time with something positive. One of the benefits of being a volunteer and raising support changes the financial angle. It’s still very real, but the pay, or contributions of others are not directly contingent on the performance of any given day.
I know God set things up so we would have to deal with money. It’s probably a good thing, a real thing, a thing that shows what’s truly in my heart. Maybe we object to that guy standing there because we’re jealous, we don’t like what we do, and misery loves company.
“Make him help me!” I cry, like the older of the prodigal.
I bet the action isn’t as important as the motive anyway. Maybe the guy with the sign is Jesus himself and he’s just seeing if I’ll love him or not.