“Can I have some change?”

He was shrouded in the dimly light street outside the dumpling store I was hurrying towards to satisfy my famished stomach. I spotted him, as I spot all the unmentionables on the street, with a heavy heart, but life called and all I could do was walk onward.

The shop was quiet when I ordered my 5 dumplings for two dollars meal. Quite the steal in New York, getting delicious ‘homemade’ hot food for under $5. Then again, it’s Chinatown and you can’t beat Chinatown prices. I swung out of the shop and strode down the street so I could get to church as soon as possible and satisfy my stomach. He gave me a half-hearted call  as I walked by.

Can I have some change for a meal?

At first I kept walking. I do not really stop anymore for anyone who asks for change or food or anything. Seeing people ask and beg and plead day in day out wears on your soul — then the compassion fatigue strikes and what can one do but keep walking? Better to to feel guilty than to have an empty wallet right?

The split second passed as those thoughts flashed through my mind, and this night I decided to turn around, for once. Our interchange was brief. I told him to get something to eat with the meager amount of cash I had in my wallet, and he cheerfully pulls out a pair of takeout chopsticks to says that he’ll be able to use them tonight. I laugh and wish him a good night, and walk onward.

—-

Maybe we will meet again and I’ll ask him how his dinner was that one night a random girl made a human connection with him.

I write all of this not to gloat about my compassionate heart, but to reflect on how privileged I am. I have the ability to give out of excess and abundance, and not my lack-of. As I have been praying the prayer of learning that it is better to give than to receive, I still am unable to give for the sake of giving — and I find myself still giving out of guilt. Guilt of privilege, guilt of winning the DNA and demographic lottery, guilt of simply having so much.

Answers I have none, but in the seeking I hope that I am at the very least loving the broken hearted and least of these in a way that honors the Father. I pray that my heart of giving can move from a guilt driven motivation to one that seeks to give because we are all sons and daughters, and that my abundance is also your abundance, and there is something powerful to taking all that we have and offering it up to the Lord. In practical ways that walks out the prayer, ‘your Kingdom come | your Will be done | on earth as is in Heaven‘.

Word on the Street is a blog column that aims to “echo the rawness found on the street, showcasing the real in the day to day”. Among other things. I haven’t written one of these in awhile, thought to throw this one up.

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