December 19, 2003

updating the playbook

I am getting old. I think the most surprising thing about the aging process for me has been how many of my philosophies of life have evolved. Though my core beliefs have not changed in any substantial way, my application of those beliefs to the world around me have changed substantially if not radically in some ways.

This season of the year, there are a lot of hands out. The kettle bearers are everywhere and I was once a veteran of scooting past those jingling bells without making eye contact.

Kettle avoidance is very similar to avoiding street beggars. You have the basic go route where you dash straight up the opposite sideline as fast as you can. There is the option play where you walk quickly past while focusing your attention downfield. And of course there is my favorite, the screen, where you drop back behind a wall of shoppers, themselves retreating back from the kettle and scoot straight out to the parking lot. Every so often you get sacked and have to toss a buck into the kettle. Or at least that was my old playbook.

It isn’t so much being old, as it is humbled by experience, but now I seldom pass a kettle or a beggar without giving something. I worry far less these days about being scammed by someone who will spend my alms on booze. That used to worry me a lot for some reason, but I don’t know if I even care about what this guy in a wheel chair does with the money I give to him every time I see him: he has no legs.

In this season of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, such deliberation over the worthiness of alms-seekers seems inappropriate anyway. Since Jesus didn’t do much picking and choosing, I don’t think I should either.

Besides, I’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for.

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