My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
A red light had stopped me at the bottom of an exit ramp when I saw him walking slowly in my direction. I felt a familiar tightening in my stomach as a weathered and disheveled man trudged toward my car with his head hung low. His tattered cardboard sign asking for work ended with the words "God bless you".
So what, I ask myself, is God asking me - the one with a profusion of undeserved blessings - to do in this moment? That question never ceases to be an agonizing decision.
My immediate thought is that I should reach out to help the man but I think of how many different knowledgeable and caring people have told me that this is not a good idea. Donate, they advise, to the Salvation Army, rescue missions, food pantries and other community organizations that support the homeless and the hungry.
Even though I know these are good and worthy suggestions, I still have the uncomfortable feeling that I am rationalizing a comfortable cop-out. What about this particular man? How does he feel when he looks at me in my well-cared for car with eyes averted to avoid his? Does he feel abandoned, discarded, worthless?
Although there are no easy answers, the person before me is a real human being with the same basic needs to be loved, valued and noticed. Who knows how or why he ended up in this sad forsaken spot? I am not called to judge but to consider - consider how I can help make this world a better place, if only by a smile.