My Experience with the “Trash Digger”


When I saw him digging in the trash, the thought crossed my mind that maybe this isn’t his fault.

On our way to a Thanksgiving concert, we passed by a man holding a sign pleading for help. It was freezing so we were literally running to get to the door of the concert hall. As we passed, my mind was sympathetic for him and I found myself wishing I had my purse, but I didn’t so I kept running to the warmth.

Just that fast, my mind was on to other things.

The door we had sprinted to, was the wrong door to enter so we turned around to head to the other side of the building. As soon as my kids heard we were at the wrong door, they were off and running for the right entrance door before I could even turn around.

As I saw them run off ahead of me, my mind instantly recalled the beggar we had passed and I quickly called them back in a panic. I was worried about their safety and the man’s feelings. I know the “people watching” skills our family has, and I didn’t want this poor and cold man to be their subject. I gave them the “don’t stare” talk and we slowed ourselves to a walk.

As we turned the corner, he had moved from sitting on the bench, to digging in the trash. He had a blank stare in his eyes and was mumbling to himself. My insides hurt for him.

The site of him digging in trash impacted me and my girls, more than the site of him sitting on the cold bench. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

Seeing this difficult but real image, made me think, “Maybe this isn’t his fault.”

I think we can become numb and maybe even judgmental to “sign holders”. It’s not uncommon to see someone on the corner with a sign asking for money or help and so it has become somewhat of a norm. We pull up to the red light, feel a little uncomfortable, look the other way as to not make eye contact, and then proceed rationalize; thinking to ourselves all the reasons we don’t need to give to him or her. We might think they probably did something to get themselves where they’re at or that they’re probably going to use the money on something they shouldn’t so we just won’t give them any, and so on.  Sometimes these excuses might be true, but the only way we will know if we should give is if we ask the One who knows. We shouldn’t be the ones to make that judgment. With each sign we see, we should ask, “Should we give?”

I saw an eye-opening video about homeless people. They were holding signs describing who they once were. It was shocking to see. Doctors, successful business men, athletes, and so many more who had somehow succumb to the sad reality they were now living.

We don’t know their story, but each “sign holder” and “trash digger” has one.

“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Psalms 31:9) The only way we can judge righteously is if we humbly call on the Lord for help. He is the only one that knows the full story and he will help us judge righteously.

Plead the cause of the poor and needy. I don’t know how they do it. Nothing feels worse than feeling alone; they need someone pleading for them.


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