And God said, ‘Spare some change?’

Nick Baker

On Thursday afternoon I was passing in front of the M.A.C Center, a hotspot for various solicitation and handouts. On the crowded University Esplanade a man with a stack of books approached me and asked me what I was listening to.

As I pulled one ear bud out and replied, “Hieroglyphics,” he offered me a fist pound, which, with an arched eyebrow, I returned as I wondered how long it would take for him to ask for some money.

The stack of books he had was, from what I could tell, American versions of Hindu texts like the Bhagavad Gita.

I had come across his type before. Since my high school days of punk shows and such similar outings, I could remember being asked for donations by these individuals practicing a version of Hinduism (I will not call him a Hindu because there are many Hindu movements, and I do not know his to be one of them).

He did not begin with any sort of pitch, not even a simple, “Hey, brother, do you feel like you could use some more Vishnu in your life?”

Even an Evangelical Christian who would probably make the ultimate assumption that I am hell-bound after speaking to me would have the decency to begin our conversation on similar lines.

This guy stuck a copy of one of his books in my face and told me he was accepting donations, without mentioning the book.

I did not even have my wallet, and I responded honestly, “Nah, sorry, I don’t have any cash.”

He shot back with, “What’s the matter? You’re not a millionaire yet?”

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Coming up to me with your hand out is no way for me to start considering adopting a faith.

But honestly, he was not looking for converts.

After countless searches of various combinations of words and scanning over lists of Hindu denominations, I could not pinpoint which group this man was affiliated with.

Anyone who can enlighten me as to who these people are, I welcome the information. And an opposing opinion, if one should happen to exist.

So consider this then the religious equivalent of a “What Grinds my Gears” segment by Peter Griffin.

(Hey, every columnist is entitled to a rant here and there. Some do nothing but rant. Ah, 21st century journalism.)

So guess what, pal. Just because you are from some alternatively minded, Eastern-based sect, and I am a “normal-looking” whitey with an iPod on a college campus, do not talk down to me or treat me like I am walking around with wads of daddy’s money in my pockets and am just too selfish to share it with you.

What does your group even plan to do with the money?

I consider myself to be fairly educated on matters of religion. I am no expert, but I would like to think I could engage in a conversation of religious value with pretty much anybody.

A minister stopped me in Risman Plaza one time, and before he said anything about God or church or the like, he offered me a Sunday morning breakfast. As I would come to find out, the meal was offered in exchange for attending his church.

I kindly refused, and told him my Sundays were more likely to be spent sleeping off my Saturdays – or watching Browns football (that, my friends, takes a true believer).

But that was not before I had a fairly lengthy debate with him on matters of Christianity.

Regardless of the religious value, the man was trying to offer me something, not get something, and did it respectfully. That, to me, shows a far greater personal valuation of faith.

But this guy, with his holier-than-thou version of panhandling, did not see it fit to discuss anything with me. That is unless the discussion concluded with the words “Thank you, come again.”

Nick Baker is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].