Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reading Between the Signs

The cardboard sign.

We see them on community corners every day, held by those desperate and bold enough to ask for something they feel they need.

And so we wonder: Are they drug addicts? Do they have a mental disorder? Or are they just so afraid they won’t be able to pay their rent this month, that it’s come to this? Is the power shut off at home, with their young ones huddled together under a few thick blankets for warmth?

I wonder about these things; I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.

It takes a lot to get someone onto a street corner with a piece of cardboard. There’s no doubt about it, publicly begging takes guts, guts I know I don’t personally have. Maybe the sign-holders’ parents once held signs, too. Maybe this is a cultural or generational thing. No matter, the experiences that went into making this okay were not few and were of no small impact for the current sign-holders.

I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering what they really need. A fix, a meal, rehab, who knows?

Some come right out and write the words, “Who am I kidding? I need a beer.” I’ve been known to donate a dollar or two in this case, not for the beer but for the refreshing honesty.

What would it be like, though, if people held up hastily-made cardboard signs that said what they really, truly needed?

“I need encouragement.”
“I need someone who will look past my appearance.”
“I need to feel like my parents wanted me.”
“I need to be told I can do it.”
“I need help, and I don’t know where to get it.”
“I need to believe I am worthy of love.
“I need to know I’m not a loser.”
“I need someone to tell me that it’s all going to be okay."
“I need someone to care about me.”
“I need to know that I matter.”
“I need to know I’m not alone.”
“I need my mom.”
“I need a hug.”

“I need…hope.”

If we were humble enough to openly ask for such things, we’d all be holding the cardboard sign. In the case of the above items, we’re all beggars, really. Has there ever been a time when we didn’t need one of these, for our very survival?

May God grant us the wisdom…to read between the signs.

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