Today, I had the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus; and I hesitated, and I lost out. I was left with a feeling of love, and wonder and shame. Here is the story.
You need to have this background first: I work in an area that is quite a bit run down, in the two years I have been here, there have been stabbings and shootings in the parking lot.
I have recently taken to walking through the parking lot to a gas station half a block over to a Subway. It’s not the cleanest looking gas station, I feel a little out of place in my dress clothes; but the people are polite, and nice, and the food area is clean and well kept.
Today, as I was walking through, there was a fella outside picking through trash cans; as I walked by, he stood up and started shuffling his way behind me. Given my background, I have a heightened level of situational awareness; so I watched him closely out of the corner of my eye, and then through the reflection of windows and cars. No issues.
After I ordered, inside, and had a pleasant and familiar discussion with the ladies behind the counter, this same fella came stomping in. Once again, my level of awareness increased. He stomped to the back of the store to grab a drink, and then over to the sandwich counter.
To the reply of the lady behind the counter he very gruffly said “I want a sandwich with everything on it”. It seemed clear he was slightly intoxicated.
As I walked over to pay, racing through my mind was the fact that I knew this fella couldn’t pay for his own food. Once I ascertained there seemed to be no immediate threat, I tried to rationalize how he went from picking out of the trash to buying a sandwich and drink. Slowly, in my mind, crept the thought that I could pay for his sandwich, I had the means, and I could see a storm brewing.
As I started thinking through all the ways I could do it, without becoming ‘personally involved’, in less than the couple minutes that I stood there trying to rationalize what I was going to do, and how, an elderly lady came through the door and said over my shoulders to the cashier, “I’m going to pay for his sandwich”.
I was immediately overwhelmed with various emotions. First, love and compassion for someone who would see a random stranger picking through trash, and instead of immediately viewing them as a threat, and running through scenarios on how to contain that threat, she went over and asked if she could help.
Then, shame, that as a young, relatively healthy human, with means, I would stand there contemplating for so long whether or not I should help, and he had a clear need. The book I bought on Amazon this morning cost more than the price of his meal. I was rationalizing, because I didn’t want the “messiness” of dealing with the humanity of the situation.
In the end, I lost the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but I got to witness someone, whether in Christ or not, was faithful to their fellow human, to part of the Message. It was a blessing in disguise.
Perhaps, next time, I’ll stop thinking, and start doing.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.