Linda Rodriguez has a Master’s Degree in Chicano Studies from California State University, Los Angeles. A keen observer of human nature, she finds joy and meaning in the written word. ________________________________________________
The last time I saw Andy, he was face up against a wall with his hands behind his back being rousted by invisible police. Their exchange ranging from loud and threatening to garbled and inaudible. To most passersby Andy is just a crazy homeless guy. To others he is scary, wretched; a disgrace…the list goes on and on. However, to those of us whose lives he crosses with regularity, he is better known as “poor Andy” and he’s about as lost as a warm breath on the desert. Andy is one of those rare human beings who evokes a response from everyone he meets. His hair is long and matted his beard unkempt, his clothes usually grimy and three sizes too big or too small. Whether he passes by carrying a plate of stale pizza crusts like a feast, or coughs with such distress that he scatters a crowd fearful of the threat of TB, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see that Andy is bi-polar at best and most likely schizophrenic. Generally speaking, Andy drives people nuts. He fights with doors, marches to the pattern of cracks on the sidewalk or the lines painted on parking lots. He screams at invisible demons and curses the ghosts of negative encounters he has had in the past. Nevertheless, he will tap into your charity or your selfishness and touch your compassion or your loathing, because it would appear that only the hardest of hearts are able to look upon him with indifference. The lines on his face are a weathered chronicle of human negligence, and to most of our sensibilities, if there were a poster boy to embody the bad example and the spirit of rebellion Andy would be its face. Much to our shame, Andy is not an isolated example of aberrant social behavior, but a modern-day Lazarus sitting at the gates of wealth begging for crumbs. For those of us who believe that man did not climb out of the primordial ooze, but was created in the image of God, Andy is a sore reminder that the body of “believers” is moving with a definite limp. That as a people we are long on philosophizing and short on practical application, and an uncomfortable reminder, that we make daily choices that serve either hope or hopelessness. We relieve our collective conscience by intellectualizing that his condition is the result of his personal choices. We dress our indifference in a suit disguised as applying wisdom and discretion. We alleviate our responsibility for negating mercy and charity by persuading ourselves that his choices were not our choices, his tears are not our tears and his faults are not our fault. However, should Andy happen to cross your path, the tables will be turned and the choices will be yours, because giving is about the heart of the giver and not the worth of the recipient. If you would like to know who and what Andy is, Andy is a pop quiz. Andy tests your patience and your tolerance. He asks simply by his presence how you decide who is worthy and who is not. Did not some woman labor to bring this life through her womb, and if God saw fit to give life to this son, how do we now determine his worth and merit? Andy is an abrasion in the human spirit and when he approaches you for a dollar or a cup of coffee, he could very well be God in disguise, asking how you determine the value of a man. Asking if you are a respecter of person, if value hinges on appearance, if you esteem life more than the fruit of what you believe you have wrought by your own hand. Andy is mercy seeking its own and compassion crying out for itself, the question of that which we value, how we steward our money and how we honor our God. A man once told me, “I see Andy every day and every day I feel differently about him.” So, who and what is Andy? Andy is the human paradox. A question mark about how we assess and arrive at our decisions, how we apply charity and how we judge. He is the warning sign that we are short on giving to those who are unable to repay, that society’s problem is us and that people are cold and hungry because we allow them to be. Andy is the testimony against us. A pop quiz, which tests our mercy, our compassion and our arrogance. He is a reminder that we take for granted much for which we should be grateful. Is Andy a man or a metaphor you ask? The fact is he is both. So the next time you meet Andy, check yourself…and remember, God doesn’t grade on the curve.