I’d hurried through the freezing alley, from my office to the Zip’s, as fast as I could go without slipping. It was below 20 degrees outside, but after sitting in a warehouse all day that is kept at a balmy 66 degrees, 20 felt like the arctic tundra on steroids. The winds were enough to tear up your eyes and then freeze the tears to your cheeks upon contact.
I ordered a corn dog and a cheeseburger and waited a few, eager to grab my hot food and navigate the icy winds back to my office as swiftly as I could.
As I left Zip’s, the corndog was already on its way down the hatch. I was starving, or at least it felt like it, as I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. Hot mustard on fried food did the trick momentarily…but my heart was already starting to set on the cheeseburger in the bag…hoping it wouldn’t get cold by the time I was back at my desk.
I trudged where I had to and ice-skated where I could, and made my way toward work.
My mind bent – and thoughts that I am still trying to work out flooded my brain.
You see, the best thing about my job outside of the fact that it puts food on my table, is that it is downtown in a bad area. Why is that great? Because most every morning and afternoon I have had the opportunity to hand out clothes or buy breakfast for people on the street. Sometimes I get to mention Jesus, most times I get to give them something warm for their bellies or their feet. Makes me feel good – and I can tell from my kids that it sends a message to others about what we are actually HERE for.
But this day was different.
This day I was unfocused, and hungry, and sleepy. I have a number of things on my mind and I will get to those momentarily.
This day, all I could think about was my hunger. I felt famished and was REALLY looking forward to the burger in my bag. And one by one, the thoughts came like waves crashing on the beach….hushed and dull, roaring in my brain, one after the other…endless.
“What if a homeless person asks for your burger?”
“I hope they don’t…I’m really hungry today.”
“Well you’ve done enough anyway, you were just up until 9 counseling a couple who is talking divorce, after working a 10 hour shift without a break, and then had to give rides to some people early this morning….you put in your time.”
“But it’s God’s time. I feel blessed to be at the party.”
“Does that notion make your hunger go away – you ARE hungry aren’t you??”
“Yeah. I am. I hope I don’t cross some needy person’s path on the way back. I need this cheeseburger for myself. I’m starving!”
“In fact, have you considered just looking at your feet when you walk?? If you don’t make eye contact then they are less likely to harass you.”
“Harass? Well…I want them to ask for help if they….wait…you’re right. I’m hungry. First thing those people would do is ask me for my burger…or maybe some money which I don’t have on me right now…gotta keep walkin’….”
“There you go. You’re almost to work and that burger is gonna taste GREAT!”
“Yeah….Mmmm….I suppose I could have just bought 2 and then I could have shared one with –“
“Look at yourself? Feeling guilty for what? One burger isn’t going to keep anyone from starving is it? One burger? However, if you starve who will feed YOUR family? You think God doesn’t want you to eat?? Don’t be stupid.”
“Of course God wants me to eat – maybe I’m not really starving though…I mean really…some of these folks look a lot hungrier than I do…”
“Now you’re just being an emotional idiot. What happened the last time you handed a burger to someone? They THREW it at you. And that crazy lady you bought the breakfast for? She screamed and cursed you! If you had let your sons get out of the car, she would have said worse to them probably…these people made their bed…they can lie in it.”
“Their bed?…their bed is snow right now…surely I can’t-“
“Can’t what? What are you gonna do? Are YOU Jesus Christ now? Are YOU some kinda savior? You’re just an ex-thug and washed up athlete who figured out a way to make a living in the business world…and now you’re just an old softy. YOU cannot change this! Who do you think you are?? Go eat your burger.”
“I guess I’ll just eat my burger.”
“There you go. Tasty right?”
“Somehow it doesn’t taste as good as I thought it would….”
“Nevermind that. Pretend. If you pretend long enough, there’s all sorts of stuff you can convince yourself of.”
“No prob. This is EXACTLY what I’m here for.”