“God Bless You if You Can” – A Short Story


be kind to the poorA somewhat longer short story, but I hope you find it worth the effort and read. It does have “rough language,” but such language I find necessary to depict the reality of the people involved. Either way, I hope you enjoy it and gain something from it. Merry Christmas everyone. 

 

He awoke to the sound of someone shuffling in the alley.

“Lisa? Lisa, is that you?”

He heard the pattering of four paws scurry away at his voice. He looked up to see the dog turn around and look back at him. He smiled and held out a morsel of his dinner. The dog slowly approached, apprehensive and untrusting of this old man.

“Come here boy, it’s alright.” he said softly. “Come on, that’s it.”

He slowly ran his fingers through the dogs fur as it ate out of his hand. He felt a sore on its back leg, possibly from a fight or a sadistic neighborhood kid. After scrummaging through his belongings, he pulled out the almost empty bottle of hydrogen peroxide, poured some onto a cotton swab, and then slowly and gently put it on the sore. The dog backed up a bit, startled by the coldness of the liquid, but ultimately trusted the man who had given him food. The dog licked the man’s hand as the man worked with his other hand to clean the wound. Satisfied that he had done what he could, the man lay down and the dog scurried away.

As the city came alive, the old man arose from his morning prayers and then walked through the snow to his usual corner. There he sat, cup in hand, holding his sign.

GOD BLESS YOU IF YOU CAN

It was a curious sign, one that caused people to give a double take. Most assumed that he was drunk when he wrote the sign and went on their way. Others, obliged by some sense of decency would drop a dollar or two into his cup. His usual reply of “God bless you” was greeted with a nod, or the occasional offer to pray for the poor old man. He never turned down prayer. Every so often someone would yell at him to get a job or refuse to acknowledge his existence, but through the experience of begging he’d discovered that people were, for the most part, decent.

Around noon, he pulled his lunch from a paper bag he had handy. He walked around the corner to the convenience shop to pick up a soda. He picked out his favorite one, brought it to the counter, and put the money out to pay. The owner grabbed the money and gently pushed it back towards the old man.

“You no pay. Never.” he said in his broken English.

“Mr. Kim, I can’t take it for free.”

“No!” he said emphatically. He shook his head as tears welled up. “You save daughter. You holy man. You no pay.”

The old man lowered his eyes, feeling a sting of hypocrisy in the praise he received. He sheepishly took his soda and walked out, thanking the owner. He walked back to his corner, cleared some of the snow that had accumulated, and sat back down on his mat. He gave a blessing over his food, ate his lunch, drank his soda, and then continued to beg for money. Continue reading

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We are material and immaterial


Over at Hugh Hallowell’s website there’s a giant debate between him and a commenter named ‘pastorboy.’ The debate is essentially over how Hugh worked with a homeless couple to get them a home and get them off the streets. Hugh got this couple a house even though the couple is unmarried (but is getting married) and gave no indication of whether or not he shared the Gospel. ‘Pastorboy’ took issue with this, noting that the couple was sinning and that they needed to hear the Gospel of Christ. Hugh’s response on whether or not they were saved was,

They are saved –  from the hell of sexual assault, the hell of living on the streets, the hell of no hope, the hell of hunger, the hell of being alone in the world

It’s debates and arguments like these that often leave me shaking my head – both sides are so entrenched in their viewpoints that neither side is willing to concede they could be wrong in some areas and work together to find common ground. In essence, both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

It is easier for me to begin with Hugh’s position because, on this issue at least, I tend to agree with him more than I disagree. I think all Christians will agree that helping the poor is good, but I like that Hugh went beyond the system to help this couple. Too often the local church “help’s” the homeless by putting them in vans, bringing them to the church, giving them a special service (so they’re not mixed with the general population of the church) while feeding them, and then sending them home. While I do understand the danger of helping the homeless – as there are homeless who are mentally ill and/or extremely violent and prone to act out in violence – there are others who are homeless and harmless. All they need is help, they need someone to take care of them. Some are homeless because of a defect in the economy while others are homeless because of a defect in themselves, but both are harmless and both are worthy of our displayed love. The Church would be better off if we did what we could to help the homeless or at the very least worked to repair a damaged system in order to help the homeless more (rather than throwing violent/anti-social people into homeless shelters along with those who genuinely need help and will receive it). Continue reading