Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Man on the Street

Saturday, I happened down the stairs from my work in the attic of the bookstore just in time to catch my semi-regular, extra tall, extra lean, Nigerian street guy in the Bible section on the second floor. He stood in front of a (dressed in full habit) Sister with his hand out as she poured the change from her small coin purse into his hand. I walked directly over to them as I heard Sister say now that is all I have but I want you to pray with me now. "Who is your favorite person to pray to?" "Mother Mary." And so we proceeded to pray the Hail Mary slowly together as the Sister reached over and put her hand on his hands. At the end she added, "St. Martin de Porres?" And the man responded, "Pray for us." Then I piped in, "Now give Sister back her money and let me take you to get something to eat." He laughed, "Oh no." And Sister agreed. She didn't want the change. She said, "Now remember. When you're yelling across the street, I can't understand who you're talking to." "I called mother, mother." "I'm not a mother, or a mama, I'm Sister." "Yes. Okay"
I walked down with the young man and out the front and asked him to let me take him to get something to eat. "No. No. I eat. I am fed at the Mission. Now I have money for my liquid!" He reached both hands across and patted the tops of my shoulders and let out a screeching laugh. "I know what you have money for and that's why I think I should take you for something to eat. You smell like you have had plenty to drink." "No. No. I am good." And he walked on down the street.
I am truly not judging and I know it is so much easier to get these people on the street to leave us alone by giving them a few dollars but my question today is, "Are we helping anyone?" Are we helping the next person who comes by and has to make the decision whether to give money or not to give? Are we helping the street guy? I give money to these guys oftentimes because I'm busy and I want them to move on. A lot! But here is a prime example to myself of why I should take the time to pray with them or for them as the good Sister did and to take them for food or water and not give them money. Seems I am paying for them to remain on the street. Jesus says today, "And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." Only a cup of water? Is that all? Really? No money? Can a cup of cold water really change the world? The water, the gesture or the discipleship? Maybe all three.


  1. What a thoughtful post. I will pray for this young man. Alcohol can be such a horrible addiction.

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. It agonizes me too when I see homeless men (which is almost every time I go out around here) about whether or not to give them money. I used to refrain from giving any money, but then I heard a priest talk about not being the judge, so sometimes I give money, or food if I have it in the car and I always say a prayer for any homeless person when I drive past, but I've never prayed with them. Somehow I don't know if that would be safe. My husband deals with a lot of homeless people and they are so unstable and can be very violent. I guess you have to trust your instinct on knowing whether to praying with them or not. Mother Theresa never seemed to have a problem!

  3. Thanks Allison and Sarah. So much to think about. Alcoholism is a terrible disease. Judging is wrong. We have to be careful today who we talk to and yes even touch and as both of you pointed out, we can always keep them in our prayers. A cup of cold water and a lot of prayer.