Last Wednesday, when I was coming in to work, I happened to take the route from my car to the door that runs between the church and the neighboring buildings which house offices of various law firms. Maybe you’ve never noticed, but there is a small blue gate just down from the church on Pine Street, and it leads to the parking behind the church and ultimately to South Street.
In front of the Boyd Building I saw the usual collection of folks waiting to enter Downtown Daily Bread for various reasons. As you may know, we not only make sure many of our city’s poorest citizens have a hearty meal each noon, but also offer services such as counseling, lockers, showers, a clothes room and other services useful to those who live on the street or find themselves in improvised housing. This particular morning there was a man sitting on the sidewalk with his dog. It’s not usual to see homeless persons with pets. I guess they need all their resources just to keep themselves together without having to share with an animal.
As I approached … being the dog person I am … I wanted to greet the dog. She was a lovely, good sized brindle terrier of some kind. She was nicely groomed and was just laying on the sidewalk looking like she owned the world. Her owner, a gentleman of undetermined age, was a lot like all the others gathered on that sidewalk that morning. But when he saw my interest, he assured me she was gentle, and to feel free to approach her. I did … and indeed, this was a loving, kind, gentle dog. She was in good shape, and obviously well fed, although not overweight. In other words … loved.
As I have thought of this passing incident over the last week or so, it occurs to me how it would be so nice to be able to see humankind through the eyes of a dog. This sweet animal didn’t care that her owner was poor, and wore hand-me-down clothes that didn’t match too well. It didn’t matter that he had to bathe in a public shower. It didn’t matter that he didn’t have much of this world’s goods. She could see his soul … and apparently it was a pretty good soul! Her world was bright and sunny and one could tell she was as happy as any dog I have ever seen. She had a friend, and he was a good man.
If only we could see the folks that gather at DDB and other places around the city in the same way that noble animal does. I know, sometimes we do … but if you’re anything like me … I usually have to remember to do that. It isn’t natural to me. I reflect the comfortable middle class values in which I was raised and in which I live. Sometimes I forget that those in need are there for reasons not of their own creation and they find it hard to rise above the poverty into which they have fallen.
Of one thing I am sure … God sees all of us through the eyes of that sweet puppy. He looks on our hearts, on our intentions. Do we love our neighbor? Do we see past his/her flaws to examine the ‘real’ person behind the rough edges? Do we give our fellow persons the benefit of the doubt? Do we believe they are trying to do the right thing even when they sometimes do what we do not like? A man named Jesus taught us these things a long time ago. And in our society where persons are often judged by the amount of stuff they have rather than the intentions of their hearts, God reminds us through the simple things of life that ours is a skewed view, and that we need to live into a counter-culture that values the condition of the soul over the condition of our stuff.
I know I’m supposed to write a ‘music’ blog. But sometimes other things weigh on my heart. Today, I pray that I will learn to better look into people’s hearts and less on their outer veneer. I believe I’ll be the better for trying to do this and that it will give me a larger sense of compassion for those who are not like me … and yet inside, not so different at all.