The men at the People’s City Mission are like the children in the slums of India. They come in need, but they mumble and complain, turn their noses up at what is offered, try to weasel their way into getting something more. I look at their grown-up forms and see the eyes of the small brown children in the slums with their manipulative puppy-dog eyes: Please, teacher. One more teacher.
I begin to think that people hard on their luck will be docile and grateful to receive whatever is free. I thought that once about children as they played with legos in India. I know better than to think that now. I am tempted to judge and say it’s wrong for grown men to complain or sneak extra food when others have gone out of their way to give them what is placed in their hands. I am tempted to think that they should be content. But then I think of the way I also try to get everything I can out of the dollars I’ve been given, how I look for sales, or advertisements with the word ‘free’, or fail to argue when my mother slips gift cards into my purse or offers to let me bring my laundry home. I too try to manipulate the system. I think it’s a part of human nature, the will to survive. I look at myself and call it frugality. I look at these hungry men and call it ungratefulness. The difference is a dainty word called hypocrisy.
The writer in me has to stop and wonder at their stories. Why are each of them here tonight? Where are their families, their children, their wives? Did they ever have any? How have they been wronged, abused, discarded, blamed? Perhaps they’ve done something to deserve being here, accepting handouts because they cannot feed themselves. Perhaps. But maybe they haven’t in the human sense of fairness and equality. Maybe they got dealt a bad hand. And maybe I’ve sinned just as much as them. Maybe there is nothing separating me for a mission food line than the grace of God and shepherding of people who care.
I can be so quick to judge, but tonight I want to hold my tongue and ask God to show me the difference between what I see and what he understands.