Last month, I had training hosted at our downtown public library. As I sat outside with others in our group waiting for the doors to open, a man who looked a bit down on his luck said hello to me. I looked up and smiled and said hello back. [Note: the man pauses for several seconds after every sentence he says.]
Man: How are you?
Me: Doing well. How are you?
Man: I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten all day.
Me: Well, it’s only 8.43 a.m. There’s still time to get breakfast.
Man: Yeah. [long pause]
Man: Are you a Christian?
Me: Yes, yes, I try to be one.
Man: No one who says they’re a Christian lives like one.
Me: Yes, well, that is true of most of them, but not true of all. A few people who say they are Christians do live like they are. Not many, but a few. So while I agree with you that most don’t, I believe a few do.
Man: Why do you want to be a Christian?
Me: Because I believe that it’s the best way of explaining how God has revealed Himself to us.
Man: Oh. [long pause]
Man: Do you believe that God created white people and that the devil created black people? [the man talking to me is black] An old white lady told me that once. She thought I stole her computer.
Me: No, I absolutely do not believe that. That is a bunch of crap and that old white lady was completely wrong.
Man: How do you know for certain so you would say ‘no’ that quick? I mean, how do you know that?
Me: Because I’m smart and because I know that evil can’t create anything and I know that isn’t what real Christians believe. Evil can twist things and hurt you and destroy things, but it can’t ever create anything.
Man: Well that old lady said that to me. And she put me in jail for six months for stealing that computer over at Patten [Patten Towers, where I have a weekly reading group, is across the block from the library] but I didn’t steal it and then she said black people were created by the devil.
Me: Uhm, I’m not sure she could put you in jail by herself, but she was totally and completely wrong and I’m sorry you’ve had a hard time.
Man: Yeah. [long long pause.]
Man: Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do today. I’m hungry.
Me: Do you need something to help you get some breakfast?
Man: You don’t have to give me anything. I don’t want to take your money.
Me: It’s okay, I have a couple of bucks.
Man: Why are you being so nice to me?
Me: I’m not being nice. I’m not nice, it’s okay. Take care of yourself, be safe today, get something to eat, okay?
Man: Okay. [turns and leaves]
I see others from the training looking at me quizzically.
Me: I’m an easy mark.
And I am. To quote from Howard’s End: ‘ “It’s better to be fooled than to be suspicious” — that the confidence trick is a work of man, but the want-of-confidence-trick is the work of the devil.’