Wednesday, February 9, 2011

No Work, Please Help, God Bless

Saw a man with a sign yesterday that read, "No Work, Please Help, God Bless."

I've seen him before. From looks alone, I though he appeared an  honest looking man. I'm not saying all with signs are not to be trusted, but times come when you notice some who appears more genuine than others, you just get a deep sense. And those are the ones who, if you offered to buy them food, they would be grateful and happy, and say nothing more not, "Where's my french fries?" As I was told by a homeless drunk man I bought food at Jack in the Box for a few years ago.

So, that was my first assessment. Nice looking guy. I felt bad last time since I didn't have any change on me. So to see him again yesterday, I thought, "I think I should give him something." I had some coins next to me I keep on hand for meters, and started to reach toward them as I heard him start to talk to the driver of the truck in front of me.

Both my window, and the truck in front of me, has our driver's side windows down. So, as I heard him talk, I turned down the radio and, like all good snoops do, listened in.

The driver of the truck was a Mexican man, seemingly minding his own business, who didn't really respond much when spoken to, likely because the comments made to him started to get awkward. The man I thought appeared a genuine disheartened soul started rubbing his belly, and though I can't recall every word verbatim, it went close to the following.

"Do you know what it's like to have no work? You think people are going to hire you? To do their work? No one is hiring me. You think you'll be able to find work here, you and your Mexican friends. You won't. No one is going to hire you."

Then our light turned green, and as the truck in front of me began to drive, the fellow with the sign closed by saying, "You piece of shit!"

I made a comment to him as I passed as well, which was instinctual, because I wasn't sure what else to do, but I wasn't prepared to just be satisfied with him being so unkind to the man in front of me. I said, "God blesses those who are kind to others."

That's the first thing that popped into my head. Especially because, as I was considering giving him money, I heard him begin to harass the guy in front of me and thought, "What's this guys problem?"

Then, as I was a little further down the road, I recalled his sign.

"No Work, Please Help, God Bless."

Hypocrisy runs rampant among us. The fortunate and the poor alike.

How often do you see people with signs that use God, Help, Peace, Love, etc. to ask for your help, and you wonder, "Do they really believe those things? Or is it just a ploy to get me to try and give him some money. And what will that money be used for?"

We can't really know unless we stalk the person to find out, but who's going to do that?

Sometimes we feel like we're pretty good judges of character based on first impressions, and then you find out how wrong you were. I thought this guy was a kind looking, genuinely down on his luck man who did need help.

And then he calls someone else a piece of shit, harassing him, and I think, God bless indeed.

You know that phrase, "I want to help those who want to help themselves" etc. or "God helps those who help themselves." I really do agree with something like this. And it's not to the extent where a lot of people will say "Well some people just can't!" I know. I get it. Some people really are down on their luck and without help, or motivation. So can't it be our help, that rekindles their confidence, that promotes them toward learning how to help themselves again?

Kindness really does show in a person. And beyond the idea of we help those who help themselves, or God helps those, is the idea of saying "God Bless" or even just "Bless you."

You don't have to be religious to know that a blessing can be a beautiful thing. It doesn't have to come from a preacher or a priest or a cross or a book, as it can come from mankind day in and day out.

But don't say "God Bless" or "Bless you" (not in a sneezing context) if you're going to choke on those words by calling someone else a piece of shit and appearing to be a racist. When you say "God Bless" to us with your sign, and call a fellow man a piece of shit, truly we must believe your blessings are true.

In desperation, we say a lot of things we don't mean. When we're hurting, when no one's helping, we can open our mouth and let flow things we regret moments later. Perhaps that was the case here. Maybe as we drove away he thought, "I shouldn't have said that."

But regardless, know when you want others to think that you are, in good faith, hoping God blesses them, or blessing them yourself, you've got to be aware that those are not light words. To me at least. Giving a blessing to someone is an incredibly important thing, more powerful than a promise. If you wouldn't dream of breaking your promises, don't break your blessings.

And if you're not sure that you can stick to the blessings you issue to others, don't give them. Don't make the promise you can't keep.

The words, "No Work, Please Help, God Bless" in this scenario I think don't really apply to us. They're meant to, but if this sign is meant to instigate our helpful hand, don't bite the hand that feeds, don't insult those who are living their lives trying their hardest to get by. We're all in this together.

It's with people like this, in situations like this, though we may not carry extra change in our pockets, we carry blessings at all times in our hearts. These we can give out freely, but never forget, when it does come from the heart, it means you're giving someone a piece of yourself. You're trusting them with the goodness that lies within you.

Be prepared to find the hard work it will take not to become a hypocrite to your blessings. But if you manage through the difficulties of this, then be prepared to be overwhelmed with joy, for the rewards of a life lived in kindness will be repaid in full. If even you receive just one blessing from a stranger, sometimes that's enough to right the world again. Especially when you don't just hear that blessing but feel it, and know a piece of that person's heart, a piece of their kindness, is with you for life. And no matter what you do from here, no matter the mistakes, you can always return to the kindness you've been given. And more importantly, those around us can always return to the kindness we've given them. Because the longer we live in this world, the more people we see who are hurting, who are struggling to survive, but who continue to be kind despite the hand they've been dealt, we see that without them knowing it, they're holding a sign that, when we read it, we know they truly mean it.

No Work, Please Help, God Bless.

And in our own ways, as we make our own personal struggles each day, it will become more and more clear that every one of us is holding a sign.

So who's going to give out the blessings when the pockets are empty?

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