A few years ago when my wife was working at SF Network Ministries in the Tenderloin, I went to meet her for lunch. I just happened to have our dog with me and as I was getting into my car, I had the following interaction with a woman on the street. Keep in mind that there was no indication of any ill-intent by her appearance or the manner in which she engaged in this conversation . . . at least that is what I keep telling myself.
Woman: "Excuse me sir?"
Woman: "Is that your dog?"
Woman: "She is very cute."
Woman: "Can I ask you a quick question?"
Me: "Sure, what's up?"
Woman: with a decidedly different look in her eye, "Um, do you want me to ask you in your car?"
Me: with a decidedly "Did you just move to the big city, son?" look on my face "oh . . . no thanks."
Yes, funny now that I look back on the incident, and minus the larger issues of prostitution and trafficking that happens in the Tenderloin, it does raise raise an issue for me: just where is that line between being shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves as we hard in Scripture? Now I had never seen myself as a "La la la la , nothing ever bad happens in the world and we can trust everyone" kind of person, but I do tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Unless you are clearly not all together and you may pose some threat to me, my family and/or those around you, I am most of the time able and willing to shake your hand, ask your name and look you in the eye.
But I must admit there are times when the cynical side gets to me. A few days ago, I found myself walking down the street in the Excelsior district and this woman stopped me and asked if I wore men's cologne. the first thing that I thought to myself was, "Hmmm . . . men's cologne, I wonder if that is the new street lingo for drugs or sex?"
This lead me to Tweet my self-observation, "When did I turn into the cynical urbanite that assumes anything said to me by a stranger must be code for a drugs or sex offer?
Like most things, we live somewhere in the middle of most things. Our days seems to be a constant search for and hope to live in that place between what is healthy and life-giving and what is destructive to our own selves, those around us and/or the larger global community and creation.
Sure would be easier of life were black and white.
But it's not.
So I press on, refining my own brand of street smarts, common sense and a childlike view of the world always open to the amazing surprises God may have in store for us all. Not sure how this will go: sure I'll get taken at some point, but the possibilities to be fed by glimpses of God's grace are are just too good to pass up.
I can tell you one thing though, this guy will never need you to ask me any question about my dog or otherwise in my car, so please don't ask.