Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Those In Need Of A Helping Hand
I had a strangely moving experience yesterday. I'm not one to cry easily, but for some reason this one really touched my heart and caused me to sob for a good five minutes.
Jonah and I were picking up some things at Home Depot, and this black man tentatively approached me as we were getting into Jonah's truck. The man had an enormous stutter and started off by telling me he meant me no harm and that he had approached several people, all of whom were afraid of him and thought he meant to do them harm. He struggled to get his words out and explained that he had a speech impediment. He was trying to tell me what his problem was and really got hung up on some words. He seemed panicked, embarrassed, and desperate. I told him to calm down and just take his time.
Basically, the gist of his situation was that he needed bus fare to get home. I asked him how much he needed. He thought he needed about $1.40 to meet his $2.00 bus fare. I had enough change in my pocket to accommodate him and asked him if he needed more. He said he did not and tears were welling up in his eyes as he thanked me and said, "God bless you." I replied, "Hey, we all have to help each other, right?" He was crying as we walked away, so thankful for what for me was a very small gesture. It broke my heart.
As I got into the truck, I broke down and just started bawling. I was amazed at how deeply this man's predicament and desperation had affected me. What struck me most about this man was how sincere he seemed. It was like I was able to peer into this man's very heart and see that his intentions were pure; that he was simply a man in a bad situation who hadn't been able to get anyone to help him out. I know there are a lot of shysters out there, but I am absolutely convinced this man was telling the truth and was simply desperate to get bus fare home. How he got in this situation I do not know, but I do know he felt helpless and misunderstood and just wanted to go home and that people had been afraid of him because of his manner and had, therefore, been unwilling to help him out. I felt deep in my spirit that this man was a good man in a difficult situation, and I was thankful that my small contribution was able to help him out of his bind.
I admit that when he approached me, my first reaction was to say, "Sorry, man, I can't help you out, whatever it is you need," but within seconds of his talking, my heart softened and I knew I needed to help him.
It took me a long time to recover. He had touched my spirit so deeply that the tears would not stop. It just reaffirmed my desire to help my fellow man when he needs help. And there are so many out there who are in desperate need of help, and if we can help them, we should. Often, it's the smallest thing that makes the biggest difference. My heart just ached for all the souls out there who are in need of help, and how we often (myself included) are too busy or too preoccupied or too judgmental to lend a hand when we can.
It reminds me of an experience I had this past summer. As I was driving home from work, I saw a young teenager at the freeway exit holding a sign that said something akin to "anything you can do to help would be appreciated." Now I've seen homeless guys at freeway exits before and didn't think much of it, but this kid really made me think twice. I actually ignored him the first day I saw him, but he lingered in my head, and I promised if I saw him again, I would do something to help him.
The next day he was there again, and I drove to McDonald's and got some food and then came back and gave it to him along with some money. He thanked me and said "God bless you," and I felt he was sincere. I really felt prompted to ask him how he got here and if there was anything else I could do to help. I keenly felt he needed a listening ear. Sadly, I did not heed those promptings. I always wish I had.
I saw him one more time after that and then never saw him again. I assume he moved on. But I wonder where he is and if he's in a better or worse place than he was when I last saw him. I'll likely never know, but I'm glad God knows each of his children and where they are and what they are in need of. I just hope we can all follow the promptings we get from the Lord when we're asked to help one of our brothers or sisters.