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Friday, September 30, 2011


My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.

                                                       John 15:21

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.


  1. As I walk away, I always feel something tugging at my heart and an unshakable sense of guilt, not simply because I've just ignored someone's plea for help, but even more because I haven't the slightest clue how to help him. And the prayer I offer for his well-being feels more like a guilt offering for myself. Thank you for writing about this :) it's so easy to not think about such things because they make us uncomfortable.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I'm afraid my prayers are often selfishly focused as well. But God knows our hearts and their frailties and He loves us anyway so we have nothing to fear. What a gift of mercy!