I recently found myself needing to travel to Austin Texas, and being a fighting Texas Aggie I was less than thrilled to be going. However, I threw on a Texas A&M Engineering T-Shirt and drudgingly began the rugged trek to the town TU calls home.
During my less than stellar stay in Austin I found myself downtown on Sixth Street, the root of every, “Keep Austin Weird” shirt. And when people say weird they don’t mean weird as in not the social norm but still a practical and purposeful weird that is needed in society. AKA the type of weird that I am. They mean the kind of weird so special that you only find it concentrated in one community, unique, different, and nothing that I have ever encountered in my extensive lifetime. I found myself thinking things like, “you can pierce that?” Or, “I didn’t know you could get eyelid tattoos.” I am not saying this form of expression is good or bad it is just not something I never saw frequently until I went to Austin.
It took all of about 2 seconds to first experience “Austin Weird.” This is because I was greeted by a rapping gentleman who was holding a cardboard sign that read, “Just a Nigga Trying to get High.” As he stumbled down the road it was obvious that he was not trying to get high but was succeeding at it, acting in a manor to make me believe he had taken all of the drugs. Every last one of them.
This gentleman or should I say high-man was one of many weird people that I witnessed expressing themselves in unique and unusual manners. However, these people were not all that was weird about Austin. There was something different, something I was not used to seeing in good ol College Station USA. But, I couldn’t put my finger on it.
It did not take long before I was ready to leave the unique world called Sixth Street Austin. And as I was walking back to the parking garage I began to notice all the homeless people scattered down the street begging for money. This was when I figured out what was so different, so foreign to me. It’s not like I had never seen a homeless person before. I may not frequent the clubs but I do get out enough to see the hurt and the need in the world. But it had been a while since I saw a community of them living on the streets wondering where their next meal would come from.
As I continued to walk down the street I found myself avoiding eye contact hoping that none of them would ask me for money, attempting to avoid the awkward interaction that would force me to make up some excuse as to why I can’t give them my spare change. I eventually reached my car with minimal interaction and all of the cash still in my pocket.
Now, this is not something that I am proud of and certainly do regret as I look back on the situation. But then again what could I have really done to help? Maybe I could’ve given a dollar to every homeless person I saw until I ran out of money. But that wouldn’t have made a huge difference, and statistically the money would have most likely ended up going towards drugs and/or alcohol. So I would’ve just help create another high-man, and that does not do anyone good. But even if they are a drug addict; they’re still a human being and despite their bad decisions in the past they deserve to be loved and treated like a person instead of something to avoid as I walk down the street.
So I’m stuck at a cross road. What could I have realistically done in that moment to make a difference and help the less fortunate I encountered in Austin? And after much contemplation I have decided that best thing I could have done, and what I wish I did, was not avoid eye contact and deny conversation but rather treat them with respect, love them as Jesus has called me to do, and certainly not ignore them as I pass by.
So I challenge you as well as myself to not simply ignore people and pass them by because they are different or make you uncomfortable. But rather treat them with respect. As well as be loving and caring because at the end of the day we are all people, unique but still the same at the core. As always make good choices, share if you liked what I said, comment if you have something to add, and I’ll see you on Thursday.