It happens to me a lot, especially around church settings.
The latest experience came on Christmas Eve as I attempted to make my way into the late night service.
I saw the old man, bent over, but determined as he approached me.
I'd seen him before, and often outside the YMCA downtown.
He worked the same con on me.
"Sir, I mean no disrespect, but I'm just out of the hospital and I'm trying to get home to Abilene, " he made his pitch as he extended a handful of documents and offered his Texas ID.
I'd heard the story, with a variation or two many times from him. In previous iterations his health distress was complicated by his having missed a bus west.
"Sir, we've talked often. You need what I don't have, my previous counsel didn't satisfy you, nor can I tonight," I tried to explain.
He walked away in disgust.
I watched him, feeling conflicted as I walked into the warmth of a dimly lit sanctuary about to burst with celebration, memories, rich sentiment and the inspiration of grace made real.
I know I did the correct thing technically, unless my goal was to purchase him a bottle of comfort.
Still, as I walked my way and he his, I knew in a deeper way possibly as never before that to the one I'd come to remember and thank, I appeared and behaved like this poor, struggling man.
I have my own cons with their ridiculous pitches.
I want my needs satisfied in my own ways, and on my terms, thank you very much.
At times I fool myself, and even try to fool those around me, including the one I'd come to worship during Advent.
The bent over gentleman and I need exactly the same thing: grace, honesty and another chance to get life right.
Neither of us can make much progress without a mutual respect for one another.
Both of us need to ditch the pitch, the hustle, the passing game.
I hope to see him again.
Possibly we can talk about what we both really need.