Monday, July 28, 2008


I’d just seen the young man (I’ll call him Joe) for a few minutes before the incident. I’d been visiting my aging parents and part of the journey involved a three hour wait in the downtown bus depot. It was lunch-time, the depot doesn’t boast a great culinary selection and supper on the ferry was still several hours away. Since the options, sushi or pre-packaged sandwiches didn’t catch my fancy, I opted for a hamburger. That’s where I met Joe.

A word about Joe: I’d say he was about 20 years old, was dressed in a manner typical of his peer group, and seemed physically agile (in any case he certainly moved around the eating area in a hurry). From what I saw he didn’t display any obvious signs of a physical disability. Granted I’d just seen him for a few minutes but during that time nothing about his behaviour seemed out of the ordinary. That is, until he started cleaning up after paying customers.

Now this was no exercise in benevolence because his “cleaning up” consisted of finishing up the leftover food on abandoned or unattended trays. You can believe that I watched my meal closely as I backed up to the counter for a couple of extra serviettes…if Joe was going to eat it, I wanted some first!

My reaction to Joe’s consumption of cold fries vacillated between pity (should I buy him a meal?) to frustration (employers are begging for good workers – get yourself a job!). In just minutes he’d snatched what he could and left with a group of other young people. I contemplated the hunger that often invades the human heart – hunger for something beyond the cold, greasy offerings of sin.

In his book, Reading with Deeper Eyes: the love of literature and the life of faith, William Willimon says: “Words are the only tools in my ministerial bag of tricks.”

I’ve thought a lot about Joe since then. At least my meal was hot and satisfied my hunger; his was cold, and I suspect, far from adequate. As a writer I long to have my work saturated with a God-hunger that can’t be explained in human terms. There’s a hungry world out there and someone is longing to be fed.

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