* "Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder" is a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, and is available for purchase here!
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
As I sit in traffic, I happen to look up ahead at the scenery around me and catch a glimpse of one less fortunate holding a sign pleading for help. Hmm, I immediately think, this must be what Jesus meant when he said, “The poor will always be with you.” Over the past few years, I have noticed an increase in our city’s homeless population, almost in sync with the growth of the city. There used to be only two street corners the homeless regularly “worked,” but now there are at least ten.
It pains me to see a homeless individual. I am pained for them and their situation, but also for myself, as I never quite know if I should help or not…and I like to help everyone! Questions on top of questions flow through my mind while I sit and wait in traffic as an internal battle rages within me. Am I being an enabler if I give them money? Am I being taken advantage of? How did they get to this place in life? Why can’t they get out of it? Where is their family? Do they even have a family? How did they get this low? Are they a victim of circumstances? Are they the creator of their circumstance? What happens to the money I give? Does it go for sustenance or substance? Instead of standing on the corner holding a sign, why not get a job? I give to the local homeless shelter – is that enough? Why don’t they go there for help?
I know I am not alone in my thoughts of skepticism.
Truly, I dislike these feelings. I don’t like being callous or cynical. I used to avoid eye contact with these individuals, but in recent years I actually nod and smile as I try to extend kindness and compassion as well as let them know that they are not being ignored. Most times, I receive a blank or hollow stare, but sometimes there is the inkling of a smile even when no money changes hands. Recently, I’ve made it a practice of giving to a homeless person that I have never seen before. I do want them to know that someone cares. Because of this, I have to make a conscious effort to carry cash.
Coming out of thought, I see several cars have been able to make right on red turns, allowing me to move closer to the intersection. I notice that the man is holding a sign that says “HELP – WILL WORK FOR FOOD.” I’ve never seen him before. Rolling down the window and quickly leaning to the side, I pull out my wallet to get some cash to pass to him. My heart sinks – it’s empty. Before I know it, I am directly beside him. I wave apologetically.
He stares directly into my eyes and says, “Sir, can you help me?”
Shaking my head from side to side, I reply, “I’m sorry. I just checked my wallet and I don’t have any cash on me.”
Noticing I did intend to help, he quickly takes two steps toward my car and bends down to face level. My stomach lurches nervously. “How about a card?”
“What?” I question, scrunching my eyebrows in confusion.
Glancing up at the traffic light, he speaks quickly, “A card. Bank card. Credit card.”
Completely caught off guard, I stammer, “Well…I, uh - ”
“I take cards too!” He holds up a cell phone with a card reader attached.
Honk! Honk! Honk!
The light is green. As I turn back to him, his eyes are burning holes into mine. “I’ll pull into that parking lot,” I hurriedly say, pointing behind him. He backs away, nodding.
Honk! Honk! Honk!
I wave my hand in the rearview mirror and quickly make a righthand turn followed by another immediate right into the vacant parking lot. The homeless gentleman walks briskly to my car with his phone out. Warily, I stare at his phone. This is bizarre, I think to myself. The homeless man has a cell phone and is accepting donations with a card. Am I in the Twilight Zone?
Breaking through my thoughts as he approaches, the man says, “Thanks, sir. Debit or credit?”
Eyes widening in disbelief, I respond with, “What?”
“Debit or credit?”
Blinking rapidly, I chuckle awkwardly. “How long have you been accepting cards?”
Smiling a toothy grin, he replies, “You’ve got to change with the times, man. When people quit carrying cash and started just using cards, I had to get with the program or starve. Technology waits for no one. I’m seriously considering this cryptocurrency thing too!”
I dip my chin, taking in what he just shared. This is unreal. “So, how do I know that you aren’t conning me?”
Shaking his head with a grin, he says, “Sir, are you afraid to give me your card? I can’t outrun you…you’ve got the car. If I fraud you the police will be at our campsite tonight like white on rice. I am no different than anyone else that accepts a card. You give your card number to people over the phone or online when you are buying something, don’t you?”
He spoke the truth. Hesitantly, I hand my card to him.
“Debit or credit?” he asks again.
Knowing that credit is safer since I can dispute a transaction if needed, I tell him, “Credit.” He nods and swipes my card. It takes a couple of swipes to take before he turns his phone around for me to select the amount: $5.00, $10.00, $20.00, $25.00, or other. Either blown away by his ingenuity or feeling extremely generous, maybe both, I choose “other,” type in $100.00, and hit send.
“All right!” he exclaims, “You are the man! Thank you so much! Do you want me to send a receipt to your email?”
“Ah, no, that is not necessary,” I reply, taken aback once more. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, do you have a bank account that this goes into?”
“No, it automatically goes into my IPay account, and I use that.”
“Oh, wow!” Baffled, I smile at him. “I don’t even have one of those!”
“Man, you got to get with it!” he laughs, putting his phone in his pocket. “I ought to call you ‘grandpa’ and you’re nowhere close to it!” He backs away from the car, still laughing, and says, “Remember, Grandpa…
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NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INNOVATION
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*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!