Cardboard Signs

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Isaiah 58:10 ESV

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Luke 3:11 ESV

Everyday I see you.
In all kinds of weather.
Searching eyes.
On your regular corner
with your regular message
on your cardboard sign.

In the back of my mind,
where it’s not as painful
as the front would be,
I wonder if the six and sixteen year old you
were like the six and sixteen me.

Did your mom love you?
Did she make sure you had treats after school?
Did your dad yell too much?
Did he play ball with you?
Did things go awry later on?
Or were they bad always?

Am I that different?
What if the wind had blown from the other side of the compass
on the day I was born?
What if the breadwinner in your family hadn’t lost their job?
What if you hadn’t fallen in love with drugs?
What if you hadn’t just stopped caring
about anything?
What if you could abide being inside?
What if you thought you could live with people?
What if the bombs that went off in ’68
finally ceased their echo?

I have no interest in assessing blame.
I’m not so naive as to assume
you want to be me.
I can’t say you didn’t choose this life.
I just don’t know why someone would.
I just don’t know.

I won’t settle this in my mind tonight.
I don’t know that I ever will.
But that’s okay,
because I don’t think God wants us to be “comfortable”
with cardboard signs
and searching eyes.

© Joel Tipple
371

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