The Pear: A Short Parable

I had to walk to the bank to have some documents notarized related to my mother’s death. It is not the most depressing stroll in Minneapolis, but it is a stroll across litter strewn parking lots, a football stadium with a collapsed roof, a hospital, a halfway house, and a mission.

It is a lovely day for it, though.

I concluded my business at the bank and stepped outside. A homeless guy… well, let me rephrase that. A guy who looked pretty shabby, who may or may not have a home, asked me for spare change for lunch.

You can’t assume that every shabby spare changer guy is an alcoholic and will spend every dime he gets on the cheapest, strongest stuff to get himself through another day. On the other hand, you can’t assume otherwise. I never give out alms for that reason.

Now, I did have a pear in my pocket. It was part of a gift basket from the angels of Knopf. They are fantastic pears. I was saving this one for lunch, but it was still rolling around in my jacket pocket.

I was at a moral crossroads. I could keep the pear for myself (I sure was looking forward to it), or I could give it away. Whether or not the man would spend money on booze, he really must be hungry and need food. This pear was better than the fare at the mission, I was sure. There was no way he could pawn a pear, so he’d have to eat it. He would be momentarily nourished and happy. I don’t suppose for a second a man’s soul can be redeemed by a pear, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt him. Perhaps this kindness would at least brighten his day.

Life is filled with these tiny opportunities to make a difference.

Well, I don’t want to keep you in suspense any more. I kept the pear. In the split second of reckoning, I figured he might throw the pear back at me, be enraged by its worthlessness at the liquor store. And, furthermore, I wanted the pear for myself. Suspicion and greed controlled me.

I veered past the mission lest any other shabby panhandlers try to guilt me into giving up my pear. I walked past the hospital, past the football stadium with a sunken roof, noticing Adrian Peterson’s gigantic face on a poster that said something like “Perseverence!” Peterson is frequently sidelined by injury, but he’s a joy to watch when he’s healthy.

I went back to the desk and ate the pear. It was excellent. I regret nothing.

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