To the man selling newspapers

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that instead of meeting your gaze, my eyes stay fixed ahead at nothing. Just the road. Or sometimes my phone since it seems to always be in my grasp. Anything to not look your way. I’m sorry this interaction, or lack of, is normal for you. I’m sorry being ignored is something you were forced to accept.

You didn’t ask for this. Life hit you hard and sometimes it’s hard enough to feel like getting up is impossible. I don’t know your story. I don’t even know your name. Before writing this, your existence took up mere seconds in my mind. I can’t pretend like I possibly understand what demons you’ve fought and bravely continue to fight. For some reason your path has been filled with boulders, and mine stones.

I wonder what your story is. I wonder if your mom sang you to sleep with a lullaby and if you look like your dad. I wonder if you have brothers and sisters, and where they are now. I wonder where you went to school and what your favorite subject was. I wonder if you were the class clown or the teachers pet. I wonder what your favorite song is and what keeps you up at night. I wonder what you wanted to be when you grew up- maybe a firefighter or an actor or teacher. I wonder how this land of dreams somehow left yours with no fresh water or sunlight. I wonder if you love Jesus.

I wonder what led you here.

Here selling newspapers on the corner to people who pretend you don’t exist. To people like me.

The world I was raised in knew nothing about the life you’ve lived and the battles you’ve fought. I learned to fear you. I learned to look the other way at the red light. I learned to give only food, never money that could end up as your next momentary high. I learned to expect the worst from you, and be pleasantly surprised by anything else. I learned that my role was the savior, and yours the sinner.

But as we wait here, me in my car and you in the cold, I look away not to avoid your gaze, but to avoid facing the shame in my heart. To look at you, to truly look at you in the fullness of your inherent glory and worthiness, and keep driving the second the light turns green; that is a shame beyond words. A shame I am too afraid to face.

Recognizing the image of God in you means recognizing the dirty sin in me. It means accepting that I am quick to pity and slow to love. It means facing my selfishness and my pride. It means feeling the weight of my prejudice, privilege and bias that I try so hard to convince myself doesn’t exist. It means opening up my arms and crying out to my Savior to take away the pride I hold so tightly.

I’m realizing there’s a difference between believing in the divine goodness of every soul, and acting in a way which reflects that.

For you, I’m just another face in a sea of hundreds. Another person trying to pretend they don’t see you waving in the corner of their eye. I represent rejection and judgement and indifference towards your life, yet many would deem me approachable and you far from it.

I would like to believe writing about you would suddenly make me strong enough to face my shame. That next time I would roll down my window and ask for your name. Even just a smile. I wish I could be more for you.

But where I am not, Jesus is.

Where I am judgmental, Jesus is merciful. Where I am proud, Jesus is humble. Where I show pity, Jesus shows compassion. While I turn my gaze, Jesus looks upon you as His bride. When I offer rejection, Jesus offers His body on the cross.

The next time I see you on the corner, I can only pray for the bravery to face my shame and witness the glory of God in your eyes.

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