no dollar

I pulled into the parking lot of a local fast food place today. As usual, I was in a hurry before my first client. I was about to open the door and head in when I heard someone mumble something behind me.

I turned to see a man; he was a good bit shorter than me, long graying hair with a beard to match. He smelled better than I expected, and was dressed in clean faded fatigues.

He mumbled something incoherent, and I replied with a cursory “excuse me?”

Again he mumbled and pointed down the street, and again I said, “excuse me, I didn’t understand you.”

He replied, “Got a dollar? They have a dollar menu down there,” pointing towards another fast food place.

Without a thought I replied, “No, sorry I don’t” and turned to walk away. I felt justified because I didn’t have a dollar. I had a five and a twenty in my wallet, but no dollar. It was for my lunch, and I was in a hurry.

I walked in, ordered my sandwich, and looked in my wallet. Beside the five and the twenty were four one dollar bills. I looked out the window to see him cross the street, and I stood there frozen. I watched as he disappeared, and my heart filled with a raging emptiness.

I just stared for a moment and time stood still. A thousand possibilities filled my mind and leapt into my heart. My feet would not move. He reappeared, further down the street, approaching people waiting at the bus stop still searching for that dollar.

I have waited for moments like this, moments to prove my mettle and put actions to my beliefs. I watched my moment walk down the street. I could have bought him lunch alongside me; had him order what he wanted and paid for it with ease. But I couldn’t be bothered.

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

I have spent more time thinking about that 30 second encounter than it would have taken to buy him lunch. It is so hard to see God, and willingly do nothing to help.

Wherever you are, dollar man, I am sorry. Please forgive me. I will try to do better next time, when your brother or sister comes to me again. Just, please, forgive me…


    Once I passed a fellow on my walk to church. "Lend me $2.65 so I can go to McDonalds." I said that I was going to the church where the soup kitchen would be serving in 45 minutes.

    "Man, I hate that food. Wanda burns the food. It's always burnt."

    I thought that this was ridiculous.

    When I entered the church, I was met with the smell of burnt toast.

    I saw that man later and gave him $3.


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