Friday, December 24, 2010

Just Thinking about Faith and Christmas...

As I was attempting to exit the parking lot of my neighborhood Publix this afternoon.  I got stuck in stop and go holiday traffic.  When I noticed this middle-aged man walking slowly through the cars carrying a sign that read...

 "Alone, Broke and Homeless for the Holidays - Please Help". 

You gotta give this guy credit, I thought, cynically.  That's a pretty clever sign!  It strikes just the right chord of sentiment.  It's pity provoking and seasonally appropriate.  Not what you'd expect from the average drunk living under the Palmetto overpass.  So maybe he's an unemployed advertising executive, who's fallen victim to these hard economic times.  Either way, that sign should serve him well.

I don't usually pay these guys much mind.  But then again, traffic is seldom this heavy and I usually don't have to look at them for such a prolonged period of time.  It was Christmas Eve, after all, and unfortunately Publix shared the strip mall with both a Target and Best Buy.  So the place was a mob scene.

As I continued to observe the stranger.  I must admit, my heart began to soften.

Besides, this guy was different.  He wasn't even trying to make eye contact with me or anyone else , which is what they usually do.  You know how they try to stare you down with guilt, but not this guy.  He was looking straight ahead as he walked with a rather lost, blank expression on his face.  I also noticed that he was a gringo, a white guy, even whiter than me.  If that's possible.  He looked very unkempt with strawberry blond graying hair and beard.  A true rarity in my mostly Latin, upscale Miami, neighborhood. He didn't look like a wino or drug addict, but he did look down and out.  He just appeared to be sad and overwhelmed by life.

No one seemed to be paying any attention to him.  Usually I'll see at least one or two people give these guys a little something, but not this time.  This guy was being completely ignored and I was beginning to feel for him.

That didn't last long though, as I began to get more cynical again.  I noticed that his sign was in English. Perhaps some of these people may not even be able to read it.  His clever marketing technique is completely lost on this audience. Should've gone bilingual,  I chuckled to myself.

Then, wouldn't you know it, I realized he was slowly making his way towards my car.  That's when something really strange happened.  Instead of trying to avoid eye contact with him, which is what I usually do in these circumstances.  I found myself attempting to engage his gaze.  Yes it's true, I was actually trying to seek him out.  But he wasn't having it, his eyes remained unfocused as she slowly meandered forward.   He seemed to be oblivious to me and everyone else around him. No wonder it was so easy for people to ignore him, he was ignoring them! 

I don't know why and I don't know what came over me, but I suddenly felt the need to give him something. Was I being influenced by the ghost of Dickens Christmas Future and worried that one day this could be me?  Or was I just becoming a soft touch in my old age?  Whatever it was.  I found myself waving to get his attention but he didn't notice.

So I put a dollar bill in my hand as I leaned over and waved it out the passenger window at him, but he still didn't notice as he slowly past the right side of my vehicle.  I waved and yelled out the window even louder, but he ignored me.  Then some other guy began to yell, but the man kept walking.

Finally a young Latina, jumped out of her car and physically approached him. She stopped him and put a dollar bill directly into his hand.  The man looked down at the dollar.  He just stared at it motionless for a while.  Still not making eye contact with anyone, as he then began to cry.  Next thing I knew we were all getting out of our cars and rushing to give him money.  Not just dollar bills either, but all denominations.  As the man literally began to sob, some of us were so moved that we began to cry as well.

When I eventually got to drive home from this rather Surrealistic Miami Moment, I proceeded  to bask in the glow that one gets when they realize It's Better to Give Than Receive.

Unfortunately, the "Warm Fuzzies" quickly began to fade as the skeptic in me began to speculate.  Had I just been taken?  Were we all in fact, the victims of some kind of shrewd mass manipulation? 

The truth is, I don't know and I hate to admit this, but I'm not even sure I want to know.

Yes, I guess it's true, even agnostic atheists like me, sometimes feel the Need to Believe in Something.

So even if I can't put my Faith in some Invisible Guy in the Sky;

Maybe - Sometimes, I Can Choose to Believe in My Prominently Visible Fellowman.

Just Thinking

And Happy Holidays Everyone!

Please feel free to comment below, ( just click on the word "Comments" if the panel is not open). don't forget to check out my other blog  Agnostic Thinking 

1 comment:

  1. I love this story, Eddie. I think you all experienced a really rare beautiful moment.