Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daily Bread

[what's brewing: Is your cup running over? ]

I find taxi drivers to be some of the most interesting people to talk with. They usually have photos of their children displayed on the dashboard, along with other d├ęcor that serve as good conversation pieces. They often listen to the radio throughout their shift, so they are great sources for information about local happenings and big news stories, especially brewing protests and strikes. Since they spend most of their day alone, they usually seem eager to engage in conversation if given the opportunity.

I have been surprised by the number of taxi drivers who have university degrees or professional training but turned to driving a taxi when low employment rates made it impossible to find work in their field. They, like the majority of people in the country, are struggling to make ends meet. Their hours are long and their wages are low, but they do what they can to get by.

I have never seen a taxi with more than a quarter tank of gas – most commonly the gauge is resting on ‘Empty’, stretching the gas mileage of their little cars to the limit. It is not uncommon to be asked for payment early as a driver pulls into a gas station and puts in only the amount of gas that your fare can cover.

I think of this often when I pray for more understanding of what it means to pray for daily bread.

Many drivers shoo away beggars who peer into the windows of the car and plead for money, acting on behalf of their client in the back seat. Drivers silently ignore the less obtrusive beggars that populate the intersections, just as their passengers most often do. There seems to be an understanding that the drivers are in need themselves – beggars should not approach them for donations they way the approach the drivers of private cars.

Yesterday I experienced something that made a significant impact on me. As I was heading to the post office, my taxi driver stopped at a red light (only after several of the cars in front of us ran through it). A young woman stood on the median, holding the hand of her blind father. They both stood with their hands extended, silently asking for contributions to help meet their needs. I busied myself looking aimlessly through my bag – my way of dealing with the uncomfortable feeling of being stared at in the still moments of an intersection. The sounds of the outside world suddenly got louder and I looked up to see my driver lowering his window, signaling the young girl to come near. He pulled some change from his ash tray (the ‘piggy bank’ in most taxis) and placed it in her hands with the simple words, “God bless you.” And we pulled away, back into the chaos of traffic.

I cannot say for certain, but I feel it is safe to presume this driver was giving out of what he does not have. A few minutes earlier he had asked for early payment as we pulled into a gas station; he used three of my five coins to pay the bill. And then gave at least a portion, if not all, of the remaining amount away to this young woman. I felt the sting of pride and selfishness as I remembered the way I had just busied myself to avoid eye contact while this man lowered his window and gave out of his own need.

Since then I have been praying these words over and over:

Lord, keep my heart tender and aware of the needs around me. Give me eyes to see this world as you do and wisdom to discern what you are asking of me in each situation. Give me this day my daily bread; use me and the resources you’ve given me to provide daily bread for those around me.


Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

This is a daily and at times hourly struggle we have in the community we serve in. The need is so great, and the resources are so few. I know that most people on the field experience this as well. One of the ways we have tried to deal with this is to give food instead of money. Granola bars in our car to hand out to beggers - care packages of rice/beans/flour in the community we serve. It's a difficult thing at times and can seem so overwhelming, but Christ says there are poor and will always be poor - so we look to our heart and our God to see how He will use us.

Alan & Beth McManus said...

We live in a small city so we've gotten to know many of the beggars by sight. There is one man that I never give to. I've seen him lying drunk in the gutter too many times to want to give him money.

We, too, keep food items (cheese or peanut butter crackers, granola bars, etc.) in our purses (Mom's and mine) or in the car to give to beggars we aren't familiar with. If I don't have anything with me while walking on the street, I will sometimes duck into a tienda (little store) to buy a piece of bread or something so as not to give money. We also have handed out little bottles of water.

We usually try to give a tract with our "gift." What is most interesting to me is they way many will stop immediately to read the tract from beginning to end before eating the food or moving to the next car.

Brenda said...

Taxi drivers ARE interesting people and I have often been amazed at their generosity. All day long they see people begging yet they are touched by certain needs. Its to be admired.

Shilo said...

Isn't it so hard to know what to do? I often struggled with the very same thing. Your response of looking to Christ for a tender heart is to be sure the best response. You are a blessing!

Grammy said...

Not fully undrestanding the language is difficult. Today walking home from the bread store I crossed paths with a man who( didn't look like some of the beggers)he said something....I thought about what he said all the way home. Inside our door I asked my husband what I thought the man said, and asked what it meant. The man on the street had said share with me. I missed that oppertunity to give him that whole loaf of bread which I would have gladly done if ... I knew the language better.I'm still working at learning the language..

Pam said...

Thank you for this post! Such a great reminder of what we really need to be doing. I just read Jesus' words in Luke 18 about how hard it is for the rich to get into heaven with my 4th grader for homeschooling. While we don't usually think of ourselves as "rich", in our host countries we usually are. I need to see myself as a conduit of every kind of blessing from God to those around me - not as a poor missionary who lives with so much less than her peers back home. Thank you for the song, too! Great words, great prayer.

MissElaineous said...

I like that your prayer was a request to keep your heart sensitive to needs around you. For me it's so difficult to know when I am helping by giving to beggars and when I would be hindering.



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