A dog and a man

bench lined with cardboard

It was a quiet Sunday morning. Very little traffic. Very few people out except the dedicated who had rolled out of bed for 10 o’clock mass.

The evangelical service didn’t start until 11. And a crisp morning stroll was a good remedy for lethargy during church. Obviously, I was fairly alone in my opinion, or at least alone in the motivation for its practice.

I jammed my fists into my coat pockets to keep them warm. I was headed nowhere in particular and anyone looking at me could tell. Who cared? The hushed activity was restful and I talked with God as I walked.

Along the boulevard, there was a big piece of cardboard spread out on a bench. Had a homeless person slept there? Where was he now? Had the police chased him away? Why was he homeless?

As I continued strolling, I prayed for the needy of our quiet little town. Up a block or two along the boulevard, I noticed a dog shying away from a man on a bench. The skinny beast had belonged to somebody at some point in time—I knew because of the collar—but now his ribs were jutting through his thin white coat.

Again, the dog approached the man with great skepticism and was rewarded with a chunk of bread. He shied away again, but watched for the next morsel.

And the man. As I got closer, I noticed him. He had that look. Like someone who had spent more than one night on a park bench. Next to him was a childless stroller piled high with things, earthly treasures that may have come from a nightly raid of the neighborhood trash bins.

I passed the scene, wondering why the man was throwing away his bread to a dog. Wasn’t that proof of his bad stewardship that had probably put him out on the street in the first place?

Or could it be that he knew need—true, desperate need—and he had compassion on another needy creature?

On my return loop, my view was from the back of the scene. The dog was still there, darting in and shying away, but not quite so shyly anymore. He and the man understood each other.

I was the outsider, passing by the scene without really understanding.

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