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I met this man standing outside my hotel this morning. Something I’ve noticed about downtown Cincinnati: there are a lot of people like him on the streets. You can’t walk a block without passing one or two of them.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Good morning, sir,” he said.
“How you holding up?”
“I’m okay.” We chatted about the weather, and the snow flurries, but he told me this winter had been better than the last one.
“So tell me,” said. “What’s your story?”
He smiled. “It’s a woman,” he said.
“Yessir. She was my wife. I invited a friend of mine who was down on his luck to come and stay with us for a while, and he went off with my business and my wife and I moved out to try and make it on my own.”
“Where you living now?”
“Under a bridge down by the post office.”
I asked if I could take his picture and he said sure. I pulled out my camera. Flurries of snow fell around us.
“What’s your name?”
“Jesse.” I took a quick snapshot and thanked him and stuffed a few bills in his cardboard cup.
“Take care of yourself, Jesse.” I grabbed his arm. “I’ll pray for you.”
“Thank you, sir. Thank you.” A woman leaving the hotel put some more bills in his cup and he thanked her. I went on my way.
I remember a story that Fulton Sheen’s niece used to tell. When she was growing up, she’d often walk around New York City with her famous uncle, and people were constantly stopping him to say hello, shake his hand, and ask for money. He never said no.
His niece asked him about it.
“One of those poor people might be Jesus,” he said.
“But uncle,” his niece replied, “one of them could also just be a bum and a con artist.”
“I know,” he replied. “But I don’t want to take that chance.”
Was Jesse just another bum? Or Jesus? I don’t know.
But I don’t want to take that chance.