It had been a frustrating day for me. Several attempts at sharing my faith as a grad student and employee at the University of Minnesota had fallen flat. My evangelistic zeal as a recent Christian convert was flagging and in my discouragement I removed the button I always wore identifying myself as a believer. Later that cold February afternoon, as was my custom, I drove for home through downtown Minneapolis to pick up my wife Susan from her place of employment. As I was approaching her building and looking for some on-street parking I saw a shabbily dressed man standing on the corner causing a scene and harassing people who walked by him. Just down the block I found a parking space. As I exited the car and headed for the parking meter I looked back down the sidewalk and to my alarm, saw the man walking my way. I could see he was obviously drunk or on drugs, and from his disheveled appearance and erratic behavior I determined he was someone I did not want to have anything to do with.
To avoid him I quickly turned to put money in the parking meter so I could be on my way. But no sooner had I finished plugging the meter and turned to go, he was right up next to me. He was middle aged, with a scraggly beard, unkempt hair, and wearing an old dirty ankle-length winter coat. He appeared to me to be homeless. The stench of alcohol mixed with B.O. almost overwhelmed me and I drew back. Simultaneously he moved closer with an outstretched hand and as he spoke I realized he was toothless. “Can you spare me a dime?” he gummed.