The homeless, most of them men but some of them women, seethed and muttered on a desolate stretch of East 7th Street in Austin, Texas.
They had gathered blocks away from Austin's downtown hot spots, where those attending the Austin Film Festival and Texas Book Festival talked about movie deals and scripts and writers as they drank fancy drinks and ate hors d'oeuvres.
I was walking to a popular Tex-Mex restaurant on the edge of downtown, just past the interstate overpass. Seeing the roiling, ragged group, I looked around for how to avoid them. A man ahead of me did so by walking into the street. When the light changed, I also left the sidewalk the forlorn crew had claimed.
As I passed by, none of them said anything. Pungent smells of human need mixed in the air. A couple of men apart from the group reeled, tormented by inner voices. At the next corner, a bedraggled woman asked me for a couple of dollars. Startled, I sold her I didn't have anything.
They keep haunting me. Not even a mile away from the majestic State Capitol Dome, the Driskell Hotel and the vibrant bars of Sixth Street, the soaring hotels and office buildings, they drink their cheap wine and wait for the night.
Texas, with all of its outrageous prosperity, can't provide them shelter and decent lives. The mega-churches of Texas, with all of their millions of dollars, don't help them.
Heading down the interstate from Austin to Dallas, I kept seeing signs for Bible colleges and "houses of worship."
I remember Mr. Jesus saying something about taking care of the least of these brothers and sisters.