Seeing Through

People who set aside their agendas to help others in need are inspiring.  Those who ran toward the bombs to help at the Boston Marathon.  A runner who stops during a race, forfeiting his goal, to assist another runner in need.  A race spectator who sets aside fear or inconvenience to help an ailing runner.  The next time I’m given the opportunity to help, I hope I seize it with joy.

“But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.  He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.  Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him.” Luke 10:33-34

Last week, I was walking through a busy outdoor shopping area around noon.  I was in a hurry and had little time to get to the store, pick up the items I needed, and hurry to my next destination.  As I rushed toward the store, I saw ahead a man standing on the edge of the sidewalk, and it appeared he was asking passersby for money.  Several thoughts went through my mind, briefly and without much consideration … We have many, blessed shelters and food kitchens in our city, which my family and our church support, and I wished he would go there.  A modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge in a skirt.  Should I let him know about the shelters?  Offer to drive him to one?  Or, maybe I should offer to bring him food and water or share a meal with him.  Concerns about personal safety and the possibility of an angry reply flashed through my mind, as did reminders of my tight schedule.  So, what did I do?  I attempted to avoid him altogether by crossing the street well before I got too close.  The man, seeing me start to cross the street, turned toward me and raised his voice – not in a threatening way – to ask if I could help.  My reply?  “Not today.”  From that moment, the exchange has eaten at my heart, and when the gospel reading at our church last weekend was about the Good Samaritan, I could see the man’s face as clearly as I saw it that day and as clearly as I see it now.  No matter what my thoughts were about him being on the sidewalk asking for money, I had a duty as a Christian to consider him and his needs more than I did.  At the very least, I could have acknowledged to myself he and I are more alike than different, approached him, and asked what he needed.  I could have offered kind words.  I could have said nothing and given him money or spent a few minutes to purchase food and drink for him.  I could have offered to take him to lunch.  I could have asked him if he would like a ride to a shelter that could provide for his needs.  The “could haves” are endless, but my choice was to cross the street.  Like the priest and the Levite on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, I chose to forsake mercy and prioritize myself over another.  I tried to ignore the man, so as to keep my day free from inconvenience and bother, and I forfeited an opportunity to serve.  I regret losing that opportunity, but I’m thankful for the experience.  Next time, I will choose to act differently.  My pastor summarized it well on Sunday:  “We are not here to see through others; we are here to see others through.”  Amen.

Dear God, please help us be compassionate and merciful.