Will work for food

Red light. I stop, wait to turn, notice the man standing on the sidewalk beside the right lane.

His sign is crude: Will work. Need money for food, gas, home.

But his gaze is direct. And across two lanes he finds my eyes. He stands tall—not a challenge, just acknowledgment: “Yes, I stand on a street corner, I hold a sign that tells you I need help.”

I consider a U-turn, glance at my dashboard clock, estimate the time it will take me to get home to meet the scheduled repairman.

I turn left.

Drive three blocks.

Slower and slower.

I hear You, Lord.

Turn around.

Pull into the grocery store lot, stop behind his tidy old-model Taurus station wagon.

He meets me halfway.

Taller even than I’d thought.

My left hand holds out the money. He tucks it away, fast. Not grabbing, just… like he doesn’t want it. Like putting it away makes it less real.

My mind is blank. I’ve forgotten to ask for words. God bless you, I think. I offer my right hand.

He shakes it. His eyes slip above my head.

“I’m a mechanic. I can fix cars.” Urgent voice. “Do you have any that need work?”

I shake my head. “I don’t.”

“I can work. I can… You don’t have cars that need…?”

“No, but… God bless you.”

Our eyes meet again—closer now than across two lanes of traffic.

He juts his chin at me, eyes slip up again to the blue sky. “I like your necklace.”

Pressed clay, sitting right at the base of my throat, stamped firm and clear with the words “Set Free.”

Good to receive, not just give. “Thanks.”

Back on the road, the regrets. Why didn’t I say more? Why didn’t I get a name, number? He’s a mechanic. I could have sent word out through e-mail, Facebook: “Mechanic, corner of Main and Geneva: if you’re willing to take a chance, he’d appreciate it. Name, number.”  At under 142 characters, I could even tweet it. What is social media good for if not for this?!

Marketing background kicks in: he needs a better sign, one that advertises his specific skills while still expressing willingness to do odd jobs.


Stop, Jen.

Let it go.

But this day it’s hard.

Because I’ve been set free not only from

But for.

And in the callused handshake and averted eyes, the money tucked quick out of sight, the urgent plea for the dignity of work, I felt a moment of his pain.

Through love

I am

Set free

To care.

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