They’re everywhere. Thousands of people that I have never met, but see every day. The same man in his late twenties with his black jacked up Ford F150, always in front of me on my way home from work. The same cashier that always bags my last minute groceries on Saturday night. The homeless guy that everyone, including me, avoids eye contact with, pretending to be entranced with the same bumper that we have been staring at for the last twenty minutes. And seeing all of them every day, their familiar faces that I feel like I already trust, makes me wonder what brought them to where they are today. I want to ask them, inquire as to how they are so happy at such an early hour, or why they decided to color their hair- again, but I can’t. They are the same people who’s cars cut me off every morning, and inconvenience me in stores with their full carts in front of my gallon of milk. They are the same panhandlers who speak of empty gas tanks, starving children and hard times. Yet, when the start of the angry thoughts come into my mind, I can’t help but think what led them to this place? Are they late again for work because their baby kept them up last night? How many mouths to feed does this lady have? With her worn hands and tired eyes, I make up bits of her life, and allow myself to believe it. Making excuses for the things I feel have wronged me, and the anger melts away. Even if I’m wrong, they still have a reason.
I’m perplexed by the scenarios that I come up for the homeless on the side of my exit, however. I have not yet felt their desperation, hopelessness or sense of contentment in asking others help, my life hanging on their reply. So I make up their stories from their words and signs, but don’t believe them quite so readily. I’ve been taught to be cautious; that most panhandlers are crooks and druggies. Yet, something inside of me still cares, yearns to know their story, to allow them the company of a conversation.
While waiting for a green light a while back, I nearly asked the man with a cardboard sign what his story was. I had just worked up the courage when the light turned green. What led society to this point- the point of judging becoming more acceptable than caring enough about a person to ask? I wonder what reactions I will receive, when my curiosity inspires courage and overpowers my better judgement. Most of all, I wonder how Christ was able to do it so lovingly that others did not feel violated or concerned by his questions, but loved.
Am I the only one that does this? The only odd one who fills in the life stories of those that I may never meet? I’d like to think that I’m not- that one day I’ll work up the courage to ask, only to get the relieved face of someone who has been itching to know the same thing.