Monday, March 17, 2014

A Parable of Two Men and a Bagel

It was a bitter cold December day in Washington, DC, a couple of blocks from Union State.  A man strode down the street a bagel in his hand, briefcase swinging and the tails of his black wool coat flying.  As he reached the corner, he glanced up at the traffic light, and without breaking stride, tossed his half-eaten bagel into the trash container and crossed the street.

On a bench a few feet away sat a man in a green canvas coat, his hands pushed deep in pockets, his body hunched against the wind.  As the bagel sailed through the air he stood, took two quick steps toward the trash can, reached in, pulled out the bagel, and bit into it.

The light changed and my taxi sailed through the intersection.

So, this isn't a parable at all, though I wish it were.  Would that the hunger so great it drove some one to fish his meal from the garbage was a larger than life metaphor for spiritual hunger, not a present reality.

I wonder now if he sat there everyday, the man in his pea green coat, waiting for the man in his polished coat and tie, and his half-eaten bagel to come by.  Did the man ever notice what happened to his bagel, did he ever notice the man who was so quick to retrieve it?

It's been two years and I can still see these men, the bagel's trajectory toward the trash can, still remember my shock at that first bite of bagel.  I sat frozen in the taxi for the 20 seconds this scene took to play out, and I still wonder what I might have done differently.

Lent is a season of fasting, which surely sharpens my spiritual appetite, but do I read it as a way to test my limits, a way of mortification - a little way of dying to rise again, or does it open my eyes to those whose hunger is not elected as a spiritual discipline?  How many people am I walking by who are starving?  Do I see them? Will I feed them, not with casually thrown food, but with the lavishness that Isaiah calls us to?


  1. As I reflected on this, I was led to think about people who are thrown away and it is our vocation to bring them back with a healing presence. I have met, in various ministries, people who were not considered worthwhile or who had been abused and yet God's love and light were within them just waiting to be nourished and encouraged. Thank you for this reminder.

    1. I'm struck by what I don't see...and wondering if I can pray for the desire to see, knowing then that I might find myself having to pray for the desire to act. Thank you, Lynda, for being someone who acts!