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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Won't you be my neighbor?
A couple of days ago, our national accounts department buzzed over to me and asked me why pictures from their golf tournament weren't on-line. I replied that I hadn't found about said tournament until after it happened so I hadn't come out to take pictures. I asked if they had some from the tournament I could scan and get on-line for them. (I'm such a good co-worker!)

So, yesterday I braved the elements to get the pictures. Our national accounts department is across the street from our building.

I should, at this point, throw in that I work close to downtown Nashville, about two blocks up from the Nashville Rescue Mission. So, we see quite a few homeless people. They will come wandering in from time to time, especially on these colder days.

I went out, looked both ways and proceeded to cross jaywalk across the street. As I got halfway across, I heard a voice calling out to me, "Sir, sir, sir!" I looked to see where traffic was (there was none) and looked behind me. I saw a guy with long, unkempt hair, a scraggly beard and wearing a camoflauge coat. He saw I'd looked at him and said, "Can you help me please?"

I sighed and crossed the rest of the street. He quickly crossed over and began to tell me his story. His car had run out of gas just a few blocks over and he desparately wanted and needed to get home. If he could only have a few bucks for gas, he could make it home. I pointed the mission out to him and he said he'd been there. They would give him a place to stay and a meal but not money for gas.

Now, I was downwind of this guy and he reeked of pot. So, I looked at him and made a decision. I fibbed and said I didn't have any cash on me. At this point, I could honestly see him taking the five bucks I had in my wallet and going out to buy some weed. How much weed you can get for five bucks, I'm not sure. I'm not really hip on the whole how much money it takes to get weed thing. Call me tragically unhip.

He looked a bit downtrodden, said he understood and said again how he just wanted to get home. I said I was sorry and he wandered off.

And I went about the rest of my day. Got the pictures and went back across the street.

But for some reason as I scanned pictures of people acting like fools at the pre-golf tournament party and during the tournament, I couldn't stop thinking about the guy. Maybe he'd been sincere about his need. Maybe he really did need to get home. And had I unfairly judged him because his story was so much the standard story and he smelled like pot?

And then I got to thinking more. So, Monday night at the Y, I'm signing up for spin class on Tuesday (you gotta sign up early with it getting dark earlier and the cold weather settling in). As I was at the desk, a woman came up and said she'd parked across the street and didn't feel safe going to her car alone. Was there someone at the Y who stood outside and would make sure she got to her car safely.

The guy at the desk was in a bit of a hard place as he was the only one there and couldn't do it. I looked up and said I would be happy to make sure she got to her car safetly. She smiled and accepted. We went out, I threw my stuff in my car and I walked her to her car. We passed the time (all 30 seconds of it) discussing the weather and how it was getting dark early. She got to her car, I made sure she got in and I went back to mine. Good deed done and I have to admit I was feeling pretty good about myself. (OK, she was also cute...does that hurt?)

Anyway, as I walk back to my car, I notice another woman from my spin class walking out the long way. I figure she's going to her car and don't think twice about it. I get in my car, start it up and head out...only to see the woman from spin class walking even farther to her car. I think about rolling down the window and asking if she wants a ride to her car as it's both dark and cold, but then I get this fear she'll wonder who the freak in the blue Honda is trying to pick her up in downtown Nashville on a Monday night. I am relieved that as I look back, I see her getting into her car, which was only a few steps away from where I thought about offering her a ride. Part of me is relieved to have avoided the embarrassment of being a complete freak show, which is easy for guys to do.

As I thought about my three encounters with people in my path that I could have helped within a 24 hour period, I have to admit I didn't feel too hot about my ratio of those I helped. In the Bible, Jesus gives us the story of the good Samaritan and also tells us that when he help one of the least of his kindgom, we are helping him. I kept thinking of the whole "when did we see you hungry and not give you food?" line the disciples came back with.

And yet, I felt really covincted yesterday as I thought about. I was more willing to help two women get to their cars safely than I was this guy on the street with his story. I suppose I could have given him some money and had faith he'd use it for what he said he would. But I made a snap judgement about all three people who crossed my path...and whether or not I chose wisely or fairly, I'm not sure about.

I do know that it's been something on my mind in the hours since the encounter. It takes me back to a sermon I heard a few weeks ago. Our pastor, Michael O'Bannon, asked the hard question--if people around you have to use Google to find out about God, what does this say? See, I believe that part of the walk I'm on is to reflect the love of Christ and God to everyone I encounter on a daily basis. I'd hope after being around me, people wouldn't need to Google to find out more about God.

But I have a feeling that the homeless guy on the streets of Nashville would feel differently.

It's made me sit back and think about who is my neighbor and am I doing enough to love all my neighbors as I'm commanded to do. Or am I only loving those that it's easy and convienent to love.

I wish I had a good answer for you, but I don't. At least, not yet....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/25/2006 07:59:00 AM | |
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