He hobbled slowly to a stone wall to lean on it, caught his breath to gather strength. A few meters away, he half fell, half sat in a shady spot on the dusty ground.
His threadbare clothes were so tattered and thin that most people wouldn’t even use them for rags.
He carefully placed a beat-up cup within reach right in front of him. He’d learned that given half a chance, other beggars more agile than he would snatch his few coins and run. He was barely able to move across the street now, much less give chase. He tried in vain not to close his eyes.
There was just something about closing his eyes though that eased his pain. Every joint in his body seemed to ache, right down to his bone marrow. He wasn’t sure why, but sometimes sharp pains in his side doubled him over, causing him to curl up in a tight ball until the pain subsided.
Without opening his eyes, he wiped a drop of sweat trickling down his brow and hoped today would be a good day, one with little physical pain and a few cents for bread.
The man grew up destitute. All he’d ever known was poor, but even in the worst of circumstances, he never imagined it this bad.
What was worse than his poverty and aching body, was his pain inside.
He was alone. Not a friend in the world.
His extended family cared but were trying to make ends meet themselves. Besides, he hadn’t seen them in years.
He couldn’t trust anyone, much less confide in someone. When he tried to speak of his internal desolation over the years, he found no understanding or empathy, no real concern or compassion. It felt better to be alone and suffer, than suffer emotional stab wounds from others.
Yet he was lonely. At times, waves of grief overcame him out of the blue, pushing hard on his heart to the ground. He tried to cover it, hide it away in the basement of his feelings, but now when the grief came, he would just topple in agony in the dirt until it passed to a stale, slashing blade.
His emotional cup was empty. Even when raining, drops of life fell everywhere but inside his cup.
His life felt empty. Hopeless. Meaningless.
He wasn’t alive. He was existing, and there is a great gulf between the two.
People walking by on the street wouldn’t look at him, and if they did, it was just a sneak glance before quickly looking away.
Never was there eye contact. Never.
He was gone, invisible, a camouflaged rationalization of other’s super-egos.
Not caring to die, but not wanting to live, he talked to God in his head.
“God, I’m just so tired. I want to go home. Can I come home to see you now? Now, Lord?”
Having dozed off, he dreamed how God would be OK with him. A gentle smile eased across his weathered, worn face at the thought of a new life.
A warm sensation stirred him from slumber. Barely opening his eyes, an almost grown puppy was licking the open scrapes and scabs from a fall several days before.
He smiled at the dog and reached to pet its head. The dog’s young owner grabbed its collar and pulled it back commanding, “No, no!”
Although his eyes were bad, his hearing was fine. He cringed to hear the boy’s mother fussing at the boy in the middle of the street telling him he would have to “clean your dog now!”
He closed his eyes again to escape back to his dream where there was at least a chance of happiness, a semblance of hope for respect.
Hunger gnawed at his stomach. Earlier in the day he had watched a businessman sit under the open patio of one of his many restaurants.
From across the street, he smelled the Cornish game hens and strained his bad eyes to see every morsel the wealthy man and his friends ate.
Even the memory made his mouth water. He could almost taste, literally, almost taste the bread dipped it into succulent juices.
Laughing hysterically at a joke, one of the men accidentally dropped a piece of bread. Reaching down to pick it up, the dinner guest bumped the table, causing wine to spill in his lap.
Somewhat indignant now, the offending dinner guest shook his head in aggravation, which caught the humor of his companions as they erupted into laughter.
Giving up, the sloppy dinner guest picked up the wine glass, but left the bread on the sidewalk floor.
As soon as the rich man and his friends left, the beggar made a desperate, yet painfully slow, move for the discarded bread.
Just as he reached under the table and grabbed the small morsels shoving them in his mouth, the waiter came out and fussed at the man telling him to move his filthy self away so as not to scare away paying customers.
The lowly man turned, and slowly limped back to his lonely spot in the alley.
The man’s hunger was still very sharp, very real when the sun set. The next morning, a passerby in the back alley found the beggar’s cold, motionless body on his side, curled up in a tight ball.
He finally got to go to a home, his real home, forever.
There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. Luke 16:19-21