Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The hippy-poetic philosopher on the corner

There's this man who stands on the corner of a major intersection near my house every day with a sign. The sign never has the cliche "Will Work for Food" or "God Bless You" scrawled on it that most of the other bums use. It always says something different, and somewhat hippy-poetic-philosophic. At the risk of judging by appearances, he looks homeless... the clothes and hair and mountain-man beard... and I wonder if he really is homeless, and where he gets his permanent markers.

Yesterday we were stopped at the light at his intersection, and I read his sign: "I like cold beer and mustard on my fries." It wasn't as poetic or philosophic at usual, and I laughed at the randomness of it, and then caught his eye. He held up a "peace" sign to me and smiled slightly under his bushy beard. In his eye was an old twinkle of knowing something I don't. I smiled in kind and waved, and the light changed and we were gone.

Why did he write that? Was he asking for someone to bring him beer and fries? If so, it's much more bold than the meager requests for loose change at other intersections, especially if it would be feeding an addiction... Or was he doing a social study of people's reactions? Maybe he was just seeing if he could make anyone laugh... Maybe he isn't homeless at all, and just wants to add humor to someone's life.

I felt an urge to swing through the McDonalds at the corner and pick up some fries and mustard and bring it to him. If I did, I would have sat with him on that island in the intersection and begged him to tell me his story. But I didn't. Every time I see him, I wonder about his story, yet I never stop to ask.

I don't think I even need to ask myself "What would Jesus do?" because I'm pretty sure Jesus would take the time to stop. He did in every story I've ever heard about him.

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