Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Is it me, or is fast food getting faster?

Late last night I was at the Britomart bus-station on Queen Street, and starving.

I had got some food from somewhere, and had then stupidly offered it to a tramp, who of course had unkindly accepted.

“I know,” I naievely thought, “I’ve got a few minutes to go until my bus arrives, I’ll go treat myself to a Burger King.”

Well perhaps you can already tell where this story is going.

The BK opposite had shut-up for the night, so I headed back up Queen Street to the second one, and picked out the meal I wanted.

Heading back to the bus stop, I remembered the fate of my first meal, and decided I had definitely earnt the second. If I saw any more tramps between now and the bus stop, I would have to do the right thing and just walk on past. Really - what was the alternative? Buying them all BK meals and then living on the street myself?

It was tempting to just look down at my feet the whole journey, but I figured that was blinding myself to the plight of others, so I looked forwards.

Then I found I was avoiding looking at the other side of the road, so I tried to avoid avoiding that too.

Then I noticed the junctions that I was trying not to look down, and I started getting angry.

“What!” I began mentally shouting at God. “WHAT do you want me to do?! Do you want me to do an entire circuit of the area just to make sure that there’s no-one else here who wants this before I can eat it????”

That God. Ha ha ha. He’s so funny.

Walking slowly in front of me, going in the same direction, was a big old guy in dull clothes, with a Santa Claus beard, and carrying, for his own reasons, what looked like the base of a swivel chair.

I overtook him. After all, he wasn’t homeless. He didn’t have enough bags.

Still the gentle suggestion seemed to persist. “No!” I told myself. “This isn’t fair. What right have I to go around judging people on their appearance? Or on how I feel about them? If I offered the meal to that guy on the basis that he might be homeless, then I’d have to offer it to every single person here on the off-chance that they all might be! That way lies madness.”

I reached the junction opposite the Britomart bus station. Santa Claus was now out of sight somewhere behind me.

I stopped. I stayed stopped. I really really wanted to just eat my frickin’ burger, like I supposed everyone else in the queue now was.

I was trying to do what Jesus would. I was trying to do the right thing, and the right thing was to stop picking every single little decision apart like a lawyer. Jesus’ words were guidelines, not obsessive beaurocracy. It was wrong to give the letter of the law precedence over its spirit. Tomorrow I was planning to serve God by voluntarily teaching kids English, and then taking Lionel out for the day. I needed to eat to be strong enough to serve God tomorrow. If I didn’t look after myself first, then I would become weak, and my ministry for God would suffer.

That was that - I was going to catch my bus, and then to eat my burger, fries and shake while travelling home. God wants to provide for all of us, including me.

And anyway, the guy behind me had vanished, so God had really made the decision for me. Strange. He usually confronts me with these decisions.

Nope, there was Saint Nick, emerging from the crowds, still headed this way. I recognised him by his swivel-legs.

Oh, stuffing heck.

“Excuse me, would you like a burger?” I asked him, full of false smiles and pretend kindness.

And you’ll never guess what he said.

Well actually you will. He said “thank you” - the inconsiderate stone-hearted parasite. Rrrrrrr!!!!

I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt – but if I have no love, this does me no good. – 1 Corinthians 13:3

Today, I was still hungry. I’d spent the afternoon unsuccessfully trying to get Lionel across town to visit his friends at the backpackers’ hostel for the day. (see last post) I’d failed. It was now about 5pm, and since breakfast all I had eaten was a bun.

I wearily dropped into the backpackers’ to let them know that I would now be bringing Lionel in tomorrow.

After that I headed for – understandably – the kitchen.

The backpackers’ kitchen has a “Free Food Shelf” on which they put all the food that travellers have left behind. During the 9 months that I had stayed here, God had kept me in clover through it. What about now? Would he provide some sustenance for me now?

As God, fate, chance, luck or whatever you call it would have it, the shelf was packed. Clearly they had just had their weekly clear-out. This was very good news indeed. I quickly began to fill my backpack up.

My ex-boss appeared. “Stephen – NO!” she scowled.

WHAT? I’d been back many times since leaving, chatted to her on numerous occassions, and even had her place large amounts of abandoned food on the table in front of me for me to have.

But no, today she dizzily had no memory of her past values.

“It’s not for you!” she self-righteously insisted as another woman walked behind to pick up some food. “It’s for the backpackers.

I glanced down at my backpack, but decided there was no point arguing logic with someone whose argument wasn’t based on it. This lady was fuelled purely by how she felt at the moment.

I wanted to protest “But my Burger King meal wasn’t for that tramp last night” but knew the folly of trying to claim charity.

So I had a glass of water. In front of her. Then I washed it up, just like I usually wash up whatever I’ve used, and whatever the other backpackers have left nearby for my ex-boss to wash up.

Outside, I felt a bit despondent. She was more committed to how she personally felt right now, than to doing what was right. She had really disappointed me.


It was a stark reflection of my own attitude last night.


And then I remembered.

“It’s not for you!” she self-righteously insisted as another woman walked behind to pick up some food.

That woman. That woman was another tramp. Last April, the backpackers’ had thrown her out onto the street when they had discovered her camping out in the TV room one night. She would periodically sneak in here for whatever she could get. I didn’t think my ex-boss knew this, but at the exact second that her attention had been focussed on accusing me, she had been distracted from this “street-pussy” getting away with what she needed quite literally right behind her back.

This was good. Now my memory was comical.

And God had provided for yet another genuinely hungry person.


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