The Beggar inside Me: The Signs and Symbols


By Delbert H. Rhodes



 A brightly lit southern morning and I have completed shopping. While busied by my thoughts a ragged man calls to me in the store parking-lot. Wal-Mart is a great place to shop, they have everything I need and at wonderful prices. I left my job not too long ago and money now is tight.

“Excuse me, sir,” the man continues to impose while walking next to me. The poor guy appears as though he has not eaten in days. “Excuse me sir, but do you have a couple of dollars so I can buy some chicken?” he repeats while holding out his hand to me. The man’s eyes are sad and depressed, and other things I care not to observe seem to stare at me. I continue to walk though I make eye contact letting Mr. Give Me Two Dollars know that I see him; he keeps stride with me.

What is it with these types, do they actually believe, no, do they feel that everybody wearing decent clothing owes them something? By the way Mr. Beggar Man I too have issues. Oh, I get it, I have (just) left a store, my carriage is filled with food; and therefore, I should share my hard-earned goods with you…and anybody else looking for handouts! Continuing to move away and attempting to add more air space between us, I tell the beggar, “Sorry I cannot help you.”

I spy my waiting vehicle a few parking spots away. Though the man surely heard my words, still he remains at my side, and I increase pace to get away from him. Finally, the vagabond peels off and returns to his spot in the parking lot.

Okay, I privately scorn, all the man asked for is a couple of dollars to buy chicken. Naturally, the thinking is: he would use the money for DRUGS OR ALCOHOL. No dice buddy not this time. Money is hard to come by and I certainly have none to throw away. Still as I stroll to my car I look over my shoulder thinking I should surrender the chicken in my shopping basket. At least he would have something to eat.

No, this too I could not do.

The drive home and I continue to think of the beggar, maybe after putting away my stuff, I should return to the parking lot and give the guy the chicken. After-all, I could simply go inside the store and buy more. No big deal. This too I fail or refuse to do.

If I am correct about the man’s true intentions then why do I feel so terrible?

This incident occurred more than ten years ago and somehow I am able to hear the beggar’s voice and more importantly, his eyes continue to affect me. They were blood-red and glazed by some sort of hell that most of us have yet to know. Let us hope to never know. Even then I sensed something familiar something too close for comfort.

Though I never surrendered to the beggars’ pleas: still I frustrate over how I could have (possibly) left him to hunger?

Sometimes I see me in his dread.

We: all of us are subject to falling; we must struggle to be attentive to the signs and symbols, they call to us.

Do You Ignore the Signs?
Copyright © 2011 Delbert H. Rhodes

Drawing with Words: A Matter of Feelings

Job SearchBy Delbert H. Rhodes

Jonathan walks into the office: seated behind a highly polished hardwood desk the executive is busy handling a telephone call. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable, but confident, he stands and waits. Following a few long minutes the phone call ends, the executive smiles stands and then graciously extends her hand. Jonathan steps forward returning the gesture. They sit and then he explains his reason for coming to her office.

The man is impeccably dressed, and in his possession a file of resumes and a package containing a framed poem. “I am seeking employment with your company,” he begins. The executive, and Jonathan discuss his professional history and he clearly outlines how he might be a valuable addition to her team. Noting his career experiences, and though she highly regards them and him, the executive is not sure (exactly) how he may fit the scheme of things.

The business caters to the industry of Artists. Historically: the newly renovated theatre once hosted some of the greats of music acting and film. Some famous people actually started here.

Jonathan is not an Artist: he does not paint or draw, and he has minimal business background. He has experience in Real Estate and some Marketing, but this may not be enough, she listens as he continues.

Jonathan explores, and paints a vivid picture of him and his abilities. He speaks of the days when he worked in town recreation, of the many summers a friend, who wrote the business plan, and he worked for a community summer program, funded by the county’s health department. He highlights wonderful accounts of his years as a state employee, and working with the physically and mentally handicapped. Then there was his service in law enforcement: here and in another state. The man’s professional career peaked and ended some time ago.  Now at the lower rung of the totem, he is without the better things in life. 

Employment these days is not gainful and the jobs he works are not by choice, but Jonathan needs money. A good job a job with the right pay and work environment is exactly what he needs. Good jobs are difficult to find, and Jonathan is aging, his 60th birthday approaches and let’s face it, advancing age advances unemployment. (The executive listens intently; Jonathan has gained her deepest interest.)

The interview slowly ending: Jonathan restores his files and then he reaches for the package near his chair.

Displaying the framed poem, Jonathan begins, “Even if there is no place for me, here, would you do me a favor?” Handing the poem to the executive, he goes on, “Could you please find a place for this?” The guy explains that he is not an Artist; he cannot create beautiful portraits or landscapes on canvas, but is able to portray his mental images by drawing with words.

He says, “Maybe others would find a little of ‘them’ in my expressions. This would be wonderful. I couldn’t want for more.” The relationships living in his phrases cause the executive to raise her eyebrows, she shakes her head while glancing at the words.

Emotions overwhelm the executive, the man’s remarkably creative attempts to acquire employment impress her. She is encouraged though not totally swayed by the sincerity witnessed in Jonathan’s face.

After all, as a top executive managing a business, she cannot afford to be erroneous. She would never choose based (purely) on a matter of feelings. Her people are the best in what they do…whatever they do.

Staring at Jonathan’s face, the woman wonders if he realizes the redness and tears in his eyes, the fact that his wells are soon to overflow. The executive is incredulous of the man’s professional accounts, also of his tender displays, she, well, for lack of a better term, feels even ‘proud’ of this stranger who has shared with her his story.

The two stand and end the session. Shaking hands, they say goodbye and thank you. The executive asks about the inspiration for his poem: Jonathan tells her that the inspiration was the song “Hero,” sang by Mariah Carey and Luciano Pavarotti. He offers, “The song sensitively touched me, causing me to cry.”

“Incredible,” the executive offers softly. Escorting Jonathan to her office door, and then firmly clasping his hand she says, “We will contact you soon.”

(During his trip home, Jonathan feels uncertainty; though he somehow is able to smile.)

Copyright © 2011 Delbert H. Rhodes