Monday, December 18, 2006


I was walking -- to church, actually -- through Union Square today and a guy handing out long cardboard boxes decorated with minorahs asked if I were Jewish. Now, I'm kind of a mutt, but ended up looking vaguely scandinavian -- people guessing my religion generally go for Episcopalian or Lutheran. A fair number hit Presbyterian dead on.

Now, the New York branch of Jews for Jesus is between my apartment and the subway. So, every day I walk past while they harrass passersby, "Have you heard the good news?" or whatever they say. But, they never talk to me. I figured it was a lost cause to try to make myself look Jewish, so I was just sort of hoping to get hit at random, maybe by somebody new to the game.

I explained all this to the guy in the park, and thanked him for finally including me in being possibly chosen. It was super important to him that I understand he was not with Jews for Jesus, but a regular Jew for Judaica, but once he felt he communicated that he said that made him feel good, and thanked me for sharing.

I don't know why that made him feel good, but I''m glad it did. It was our Christmas miracle.

Later that same day, I was visited by what would in the movies have been an angel. A panhandler asked me for some money, and I demurred. He persisted, and I asserted, "I shan't help you." He wanted me to explain why.

I didn't really have a good reason. But, I didn't see a reason to help him. He told me that as a Christian (this one guessed correctly) I had an obligation to help him. This is correct, but it's never seemed workable. I pick and choose how I'm going to help the poor and contribute to the community -- but I don't know if I get to. While on the one hand it seems arbitrary to give money to whosoever asks me, I'm back to pondering the question. Which is probably a good thing.

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