City-life conundrums: St. Martin and Mormons

City. It was raining today. It was snowing when this story took place.
City. It was raining today. It was snowing when this story took place.

“Conundrums” is an excellent word. Therefore, I’m utilizing it again.

St. Martin of Tours, a painting by El Greco.
St. Martin of Tours, a painting by El Greco.
The first thing that needs to be known is that there is a legend about a man known as St. Martin of Tours. In this story St. Martin is a soldier, riding his horse through a city. He happens upon a beggar and pities the cold man. So he takes his sword, slashes his cloak in half, and clothes the man in half of his cloak. That night St. Martin has a dream where he sees Jesus…and Jesus is wearing the other half of the cloak, the side that St. Martin gave to the beggar.

Crazy talk, right? It needs to be known that I’ve known this story for years. Therefore: it is like the near-the-center rings of a tree, it’s somehow more a part of me than other, recent things.

An example of a recent thing would be this: muggings have gone up recently around my office. Another example of a recent thing would be the heating-and-cooling guy telling me that someone was mugged at the corner store, a quick story as we crossed the street. Another example of a recent thing would be the whispered rumors of the parking lot attendant who was hospitalized after being beaten.

On Friday I got off of work later than usual. I cannot remember why, sometimes these things just happen. But I do know that it was darker because of the later time.

Near my work is a bus terminal, so people will filter past on their way to catch their bus.

On Friday, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man approaching me. When I felt him come nearer, my body stiffened and I looked him square and straight in the eye.

(You do this so that, if need be, you could make a good police report. I’ve been told on several occasions that I make a good police report. This is a strange skill to possess.)

The street. On the way back to my car.
The street. On the way back to my car.
He held out his hand in a friendly gesture, and handed me a note.

The note was hand-written, on a sheet of notepaper. It read something along the lines of, “I’m deaf. Please help. I need $27.00 for the bus ticket to make it home to Columbus. Every little bit helps.”

The man was probably in his late-twenties, Caucasian, dressed in a coat-and-hat. He didn’t look like he was from around here. Sometimes you can just tell, you know?

I saw, at his wrist and along his neck, some tattoos, but his eyes looked clear.

He made another signal, undoubtedly ASL, but I don’t speak ASL so that didn’t help me.

I looked around. Snow was falling…and there was no one nearby.

I had around thirty dollars in my wallet. I knew this for a fact. However, I had other facts as well: namely, the recent muggings. It doesn’t take much for a person to elbow you in the face and take your ENTIRE wallet when you only mean to hand them a few dollars.

So, I said, “no” and he walked away. I turned to watch him walk away and felt so much.

The city is dangerous after the sun sets, and that time was soon approaching. I was worried for myself, sure, but what if he was only a young, deaf man, $27 dollars short of home and safety? Plus, real talk, the buses down here DON’T STOP AT RED LIGHTS. I know this because I work downtown. But he, a young, deaf man, does not know this. Nor does he have the benefit of hearing them as they turn corners and race down streets.

About a block away I ran into (I’m not kidding) two Mormon boys on their mission…in their shirts and ties and bikes and helmets. And I was like, “Hey! LDS boys! Please, go find the man wearing red pants and give him this money” and I gave them ten dollars.

Mormon holy card.
Mormon holy card.
But then they stalled for time and gave me a holy card with Jesus on the front and the Book of Mormon on the back and I was thinking, “C’mon! He’s not gonna make it!” Eventually they set out, and I tried to find him from the safety of my car, too…but I couldn’t.

And then yesterday I ran into the Mormon boys again (Elders Guest and Jones, they told me), and they said they didn’t find him.

Gosh darn it.

I called my friend because I didn’t know how to process it all and he said, “Do you realize the irony? You gave money to someone who didn’t need or want it because you thought they LOOKED safer then the person who actually asked.”

Gah. He’s right. But how does one balance trust and generousity with personal safety? It’s a tough line to draw.

St. Martin of Tours, pray for me.

And, tattooed, deaf man, I am sorry. I hope you found someone with more bravey and generousity than I. Godspeed.


Hey, I found this information on St. Martin of Tours on the internet. Something that is awesome about holy people is that SO MUCH happens in their life that you can’t compress it into a sound bite story, so here’s some more information if you’re interested.

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