Cardboard Sign Beliefs

“When you are through changing, you are through.”

— Bruce Barton

There’s a stigma against changing our beliefs.

Listen to a politician. They’re “never wrong.” They have honest, pure and unchanging values and we vote for them.

Have someone accuse you of believing the wrong thing and you’ll often end up arguing meaninglessly. And if we do change our beliefs, we often have to have ‘new evidence’ to justify having it changed. Sometimes we say it’s divine inspiration. I think we just don’t like to change our minds.

Nonetheless, there are times when you finally conclude that your beliefs have changed.

Tonight, as I sat idling in my car on the on-ramp ready to head home from work, I saw one of the “sign-holders.” Those are the people who stand by the free way with a cardboard sign saying how much they need help.

Hungry cardboard sign by Benjimin & Deborah SF

The line down the on-ramp was long, so I had plenty of time to watch. It was cold, and he was bundled in a dirty, hooded parka and jeans. He stood with his sign hung limply in one hand to his side, not moving the entire time I waited, maybe 10 minutes.

As I approached, I rolled down my window. He turned to face me staring somewhat vacantly. He wasn’t staggering and he didn’t reek of alcohol so I knew he wasn’t drunk. Maybe there were drugs, I don’t know.

“Do you need supper?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he mumbled without breaking his gaze.

I reached in my pocket and pulled out a McDonald’s gift card which I carry with me. “That’ll buy you supper,” I said.

He took it with dirty fingers. The light turned and we looked at each other one more time in the fading sun. I think he might have smiled.

That’s when I knew my belief had changed.

I was told growing up that giving handouts just encouraged ‘them.’ Don’t go near the ‘sign-holders’ because they’re dirty, I was told. Just keep driving.

No more.

Standing on the side of a road cold and alone, with a shoddy sign, a few clothes, and a hand out stretched is no one’s dream. It’s where you go when you’re desperate. Why that man was there is beyond me. Maybe he’s an addict. Maybe he’s a convict. Maybe he’s unstable. Maybe it doesn’t matter when you’ve hit bottom. Maybe you just need someone to help you find your next meal.

Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you change your beliefs. It doesn’t mean we were necessarily wrong or foolish, it just means we are changed.

Others may disagree and that’s ok. I think that giving money and time to charities and food banks is wonderful but I also will give out food cards to people who ask for them. It’s my belief that it helps. It’s only my belief.

Changing our beliefs doesn’t mean we’re weak. It means we’re changing … for the better.

Gave $5 worth of food away, helped on a sparked.com challenge, and did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen so my wife didn’t have to.

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About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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5 Responses to Cardboard Sign Beliefs

  1. Great post – I have heard that too, but I don’t want to be at the end of my life meeting the Budda, God, or whoever explaining I couldn’t help that person becuase I was not convinced they would use my help wisely – great post.

    • Eric Winger says:

      What you wrote is a nice way to think about it. I don’t want to meet myself at the end of the day either, knowing I could have done more.

      Thank you!

  2. This is reality.; My homeless experiences, over the last 30 years, remind me that I am never far from the street. The exposure to the elements and isolation from people does things. As much as I would want to put it all behind me, I know that the real world never goes away.

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