This hot summer morning, a guy stood on the corner of a street named Benefit.
He wore an old, loose pink tank top and faced oncoming traffic holding up a white cloth sign.
I was a block behind him. I needed to cross Benefit Street. And when I went to cross, I knew what the future would be: the guy would turn his sign on me, ask for money. And I’d feel helpless and small hearted. Unable to meet his needs and not wanting to get tangled up in his life.
Instructions, then, to myself: go quickly and quietly, head down. Avoid this.
Which worked. I was half a block away, then 30 feet, 20 feet, creeping fast over the hot earth.
When I was 10 feet away, I kicked up gravel. Maybe he won’t hear, I prayed a little. But the guy turned, I readied my, “Sorry, no cash,” response, and then I saw the white cloth sign he’d been holding up to oncoming traffic:
The guy’s face opened up into a large, toothy grin. I smiled back, sheepish and humbled.
Well, okay, I thought to myself, I don’t know what the future will be. So, there on that hot earth, I made a deal with the world: tangle me up in all this. I’ll walk towards the things I’m avoiding. And I’ll know that we’re given all kinds of signs which we can only read if we come close enough to see them.
I smiled at the guy again. And he waved goodbye to me from the corner of a street named Benefit.