Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In scripture, a parable is shared by Yeshua in Luke. In it, a Jewish man is left naked and desolate by the side of the road, asking those who pass him for help. As the story goes, some men walk over him or around him and cannot be bothered to lend a hand. Eventually, a Samaritan man stops and renders aid to the man, taking him in and clothing and feeding him. The kicker of the story here is that Jews and Samaritans historically despised one another, so this good Samaritan was a man with a heart bigger than his social status.

I admit that it is a very touching story, one that fires off the emotional synapses within myself, so with that said, I suppose I must also admit I am a hypocrite.

Austin is densely populated with a substantial homeless population. It is hard to find a corner in any part of the city or suburbs that is devoid of someone holding and a sign and seeking some help. I am going to be honest and say that I have some of the same pre-conceived notions that others do: they are going to use my money for drugs, or for alcohol, or something else nefarious. So oftentimes I keep the windows and the music up and wait for the light to turn green before going about my way. I hate that. I pride myself on being someone who does not think of or expect the worst from people. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and expect the best possible results. I know it is hard to do so as it is oftentimes easier to expect little and stave off disappointment. But, it is so much better to be able to handle disappointment competently and, therefore, treat people with the best expectations in mind.

Nevertheless, a lifetime of lessons learned from or stories told by others had me set in my stubborn mindset in regards to panhandlers. Then, something changed. The other night I was getting out of my car. I had not planned appropriately for the drop in temperature and found myself in frigid air and without a coat to give me some warmth: I was so cold that it hurt. I went inside my house and a random thought just hit me: there are people who live in this weather. There are people who call the outdoors (a bridge, a bench, an alley, an abandoned home or warehouse) their home, people without a coat, or a heated space to walk into and live in. At that very moment I wanted to find some way to give a blanket or a jacket to all the people who have to brave the cold weather, give them some degree of comfort in circumstances that afford them very little.

So today on my lunch break in the midst of a lot of hustle and bustle I was given my chance. I sat there at the red light, music enveloping every square-inch of my car interior. And then came a bearded man with matted gray hair and a sign telling me he has been down for so long that it was starting to feel like up. I cried. Not a gut-wrenching, bawling howl, but my chin got a little wet, and I dug for every everything I could find. I was nervous: what would the other commuters think, that I was irresponsible for enabling a lazy alcoholic? I knew that was a dissenter within me speaking and I quieted him the only way I knew how by turning down the music, rolling down the window, and giving every last bit of cash I had on me.

I do not know if my gift gave that man any warmth, or if I gave him the luxury of another day that he did not go hungry. All I know is that I felt a calling, an obligation and a duty to be of service to this man, this person who is my equal. I could see myself living in his shoes, if I would be in them, would I be bold enough to carry my sign and beg for the charity of strangers? Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, when I spoke the words "God bless you" to him, I hope he heard in my voice that I meant it with every fiber of my being.

I do not know what lesson I can share with other people. Sometimes I just hope my own honesty and story-telling can incite a thought in someone else, or maybe even something bigger. For myself, I hope that I can become someone who does not just wait for the right moment to do something good, but seeks out those moments and inspires others.

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