The old man is rumpled and smudged.
You might think I’m only speaking of his clothes, but indeed, the man himself fits the description to a tee. His clothes are themselves rumpled, but so too, is his demeanor and his facial features.
Wrinkled and sad, he pushes inside my store to stand before me—his dirty, smudged clothes hanging from him as he asks me his favor.
“I have some things to sell. Do you think you might be interested?”
It is a question that comes with some regularity these days. I tell him I’ll look at what he’s got and follow him out to the old battered pickup truck—itself rumpled and smudged. Another man, looking much like my new friend, is sitting in the cab, awaiting the verdict.
As I look through the hodge-podge of items which he pulls, one by one, from the bed, he tells his story. They’ve all got a story these days; it seems to be a requirement to include one in their pitch.
“I can’t pay my insurance. If I don’t have insurance, I can’t work.”
I ask him what kind of work he does and he tells me that he buys junk and resells it. I should have guessed. Everything he has shown me fits that description—junk.
I am tempted to leave it all in the truck and walk away, but I cannot. We make a deal for a couple of items and he returns with me inside the store to take care of the details.
I am surprised as I view his ID (a legal requirement for me) and learn the old rumpled man is less than a year older than I.
With his own filthy, gnarled one, he grasps my hand in gratitude as he takes the small amount of cash. Turning, he walks out waving the bills above his head triumphantly to show his bounty to his companion. I shake my head, knowing that the scene will be played out several times more, either today or in the very near future.
The stories will vary; the players will be taller, or fatter, or of a different gender, but all will be rumpled and smudged, and all will need my help. I stare at the side of my store building, looking for the mark which I often suspect is there, but I cannot see it.
Go back in our country’s history nearly a century. We were in the midst of a depression, with high unemployment and many folks losing their homes and businesses. It seems that it may have been a lot like the present day, only a good bit worse.
Many of the unemployed took to the highways and country roads in search of temporary work, but little was to be found. These people, mostly men, were forced to beg for food, a practice which soon turned many of the more fortunate against them.
The hobos soon developed a system of signs to communicate to others coming after them by the same way. The signs would be placed along the road and on buildings, written with coal or chalk. They would warn of antagonistic officers of the law or stingy housewives, as well as declaring the location of a generous soul.
This last category came to be known as an easy mark. We use the term today. I often use it to describe myself, when thinking about people who are in need. Perhaps, they do too.
Apparently though, there is no necessity of a written mark for my location. Word of mouth seems to suffice, as more come each week.
Can I let you in on a secret?
Recently, I have grown weary of it. To be blunt, I don’t have a lot of ready cash. I’m not what you would describe as a wealthy man, a fact my banker could easily corroborate.
Wherever the mark is, I wish they would remove it. I might even erase it myself, if I could locate it.
But, as I sit and wallow in self-pity, almost enjoying the little party it inspires, I am reminded that there is much more to this than the simple transaction of handing over a bit of cash.
I am a follower of Jesus, with all that is attached to that statement.
Specifically, it’s probably a prerequisite that I follow His teachings.
Many of my fellow believers have come to the conclusion that only the doctrinal, intellectual part of their religion is of importance. I am not able to separate the intellectual from the physical.
The Teacher gave instructions—indeed, He gave an example—as He walked with his original followers. He used words like cups of cold water, hungry and feed, naked and clothe, thirsty and something to drink. (Matthew 25:31-46)
His instructions were not for us to provide intellectual comfort, but to actually do something.
If I claim to be a follower, I must do just that—Follow.
Follow His instructions—His example—His Word.
I know many who give much more than I do, many who are actively involved day after day in helping those in need. Mine is not a heavy burden; I just seem to be getting weary of bearing it.
Every once in awhile though, I remember what the Apostle said as he encouraged the folks under his care.
Don’t grow weary of doing what is right. At the proper time, a harvest of blessings will be ready to reap, provided we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)
The day for harvesting doesn’t seem to be much nearer, but who can say?
Tomorrow might be the day.
I’ll be here, either to do the work or to enjoy the bounty. There is still plenty of work to go around. You looking for a job?
Oh, when you do come by, could you look to see if you can find that mark on my building?
I’d still like to have it removed. . .
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. . .
Charity never humiliated him who profited by it, nor bound him by the chains of gratitude, since it was not to him, but to God that the gift was made.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery~French author~1900-1944)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.