Friday, September 19, 2014


I saw a homeless person on my way to the hospital, and another on my way back.

On my way to the hospital, there was a man on the side of the road, in his mid-to-late twenties—my age, in other words, more or less—holding a tiny cardboard sign that was too small to read from the center lane. He was smiling, and almost had a slight spring in his step.

On my way from the hospital, there was a girl. She was in her early twenties at the oldest, and had much less positivity in her demeanor. It was about 8:30 at night; she was standing in the small halo cast by a streetlight. Her cardboard sign was larger, more legible. It read:


This struck me as a very peculiar statement for a homeless person to make while asking for help. A hundred or more thoughts ran through my mind about her story, her situation, about what her motivation could be for deciding to write this bold, uncanny statement.

Was she saying that she had given up hope? That she didn't know what to believe in? That, if there is a god, surely he wouldn't have allowed her to come down so far?

Was she saying something about Christians? Has she been burned by Christians? Had they done this to her? Has her general experiences with Christians left her with the impression that she was more likely to receive help from people who do not identify themselves as Christians?

Or perhaps she wanted to distance herself from other homeless people, wanted everyone who passed by to know that she was different from the others. Maybe she simply wanted to be completely honest. Maybe she was trying to say, “You—whoever you are, whoever your god is—you could end up here too.”

It was not until I passed by, seeing her sign from a slightly different angle, that I noticed her hand had been covering the 'b'. In actuality, her sign read:


On the one hand, this clarified quite a bit. This was more standard. At least superficially, the one letter can make a world of difference; it gave her humble sign almost the opposite meaning. Most probably, none of those thoughts or questions would have crossed my mind if I had seen the 'b' from the beginning.

Then again, on the other hand, I wonder if this one letter still doesn't tell the whole story.

God or no god, was she giving up hope? What did she believe in? Had she ever imagined herself here?

God or no god, was she being honest? Did she sincerely wish God would bless everyone that passed her by, in all of the ways that she herself was not being blessed?

In the end, I'm not so certain how much the one letter mattered.

'B' or no 'b', she was a young, homeless mother in desperate need of help.

Incidentally, an experiment: in that last statement, replace the letter 'b' with the word 'god'.

'B' or no 'b', she was a young, homeless mother in desperate need of help.
God or no god, she was a young, homeless mother in desperate need of help.

The devil is in the details, they say. But then again, perhaps God is too.


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