Crazy John's was one of my goto sub shops in Baltimore. The Baltimore & Howard store has been run out by development near the Civic Center, or whatever it is called now. But there is still a Crazy Johns on "the Block" They even have a website now.
The Skipjacks was Baltimore's profession hocky team at the time.
written sometime in 1988
hen do I actually sacrifice for anyone? As this question formed in my
mind during the Sunday School lesson today, I knew I had to deal with what
happened Friday night. This writing is the beginning. It is my confession.
he game started at 7:30. My practice has been when shooting the Skipjacks to eat a cheese steak sub from Crazy Johns on Baltimore St. Tonight I had talked on the phone till around 7:10 and had a decision to make. There really wasn't time to walk two blocks, wait for them to make the sub, walk back, and eat it, then get the camera in by 7:30 to shoot the first face off. But 1 didn't want to go in and wait in the stands for fifteen minutes. I decided to go order a sub even though there wasn't time and now I can't even remember being hungry.
his was the second time this week I had been assigned the Skipjacks, and for the second time I passed what I think was the same man selling candy to benefit the retardedboyscouts (that's the way he said it.) It was that special fund raising size; just a little bit bigger and a lot more expensive. I thought about how dedicated he must be and what a sacrifice he must be making. Was he worried that people might think him foolish? Did people think he was foolish? But more than that I thought that somehow the hawking of candy outside the Skipjacks' game misses the spirit of fund raising. About that however, I could be mistaken.
walked a little farther and was glad not to see the guy that I think asked me for money the last time I took this walk. His speech was slurred and I really couldn't understand him. I assumed that he was drunk and that he wanted money to stay that way. I asked him what he wanted, but I couldn't understand his answer so I just said sorry and walked off.
hat was two days ago. As I was being thankful that I didn't have to deal with him, a man carrying a baby asked me for ninety cents. I had a pocket full of quarters so I gave him four. Not really a sacrifice. And who did it hurt if he was a professional panhandler. Not me. He said he wouldn't ask except for his little girl. I walked away thinking that I really hadn't made much of a difference. I wondered what Jesus would have done. I imagined he would have seen the man's real need and addressed that. I think that my giving him what he asked for was for me, expressing my willingness to be used, to be laughed at in secret for being gullible, to be a fool, to err on the side of helping humanity. I think that by calling him humanity instead of a person removes me far enough from him for the incident not to bother me.
ut what happened next bothered me. I failed. And from this failure, forgiveness is my only salvation. I made my way the rest of the way to Crazy Johns and ordered my sub. 7:15. I'll never make it.
t was a warm night, so I walked around outside at Baltimore and Howard to wait for my sub. A guy asked me for a match. I didn't have one. As he walked away I thought maybe I should have made some comment about quitting smoking four years ago so he wouldn't think me snobbish. Why would I even worry that someone who asks me for a match might think me snobbish?
hen as I walked toward Howard Street I saw him. He was unconscious. His hips were on the curb and he was lying in the street. His feet were tucked back under him. I don't know how he got there. There was a little bottle beside him. I thought, "A drunk has passed out." He wasn't there when I came by earlier. The first thing I did was to turn and walk the other way, a regular Levite. As soon as I did I thought about what I was doing. I turned to watch to see if he would get up and stagger away, and I could just shake my head under my breath and be thankful it wasn't me.
ut he didn't move. Some boys came up to him and shook him, tried to rouse him, asked him if he was alright. I was both glad that someone was helping him and sorry that I was just standing there. After all what would Jesus be doing now? The man just moaned and didn't show any signs of coming around. And as I watched these helpers around him one of them said "Dammit we're just trying to help you" and as they walked away one of them kicked him in the head. Not by accident. It was an intentional "Fuck you asshole" kick in the head. I was stunned. I had stood there feeling guilty about not helping this man while I watched boys I thought were being helpful turn into street thugs. Thankfully they walked away and I thought about what I would have done if they had started going through his pockets trying to rob him. I couldn't find an answer; I still can't.
man who was standing beside me watching this evolve (I was not alone in my inaction, but having fellow Levites did not comfort me at all) made some comment about young hoodlums and ain't it awful. My spirit turned and walked away then came back as I just stood there. Finally I thought of calling for help. So I walked to the pay phone and pushed 911. I told the operator that an ambulance was needed for a man lying in the street, and I told her where. There was a crowd gathering, a less menacing, merely curious crowd. I felt that no one would hurt him further now. I walked back in Crazy Johns, my sub was ready.
took my sub and soda and started back for the truck and the hockey game. I paused as I walked by the man in the street, trying to assure myself that I had done enough, and get some kind of approval from those standing there that it was alright for me to leave now. They just looked at me. Neither forgiving nor condemning. I looked down at the man. He was dressed ok. Not a definite bum. He didn't shave this day but I sometimes go several days without shaving myself. And he was bleeding. From his ear. I hadn't seen that before. I guess from that boy’s kick. I saw his hand move. He was still alive. I walked on.
really felt like a priest or a Levite. I got back to the truck. It was 7:25. It would be really irresponsible now to sit and eat. I left the sub and the soda in the truck, and began loading myself up with camera, recorder, battery pack, and tripod. As I locked the door and turned toward the pass gate, I heard the siren of a Medic. I told myself that everything was OK.
by Bill Butler, 1988