A few weeks back, I was coming home from a meeting at church. I stopped at a red light about three miles from my house. As I was waiting for the light to change I glanced to a nearby man sitting on a park bench. I noticed he was homeless (he had a shopping cart filled with random stuff). I thought to myself, “I should help him, or at least stop and talk with him. I should get out and see if I could buy him a sandwich or just have a conversation.” But it was 8:15 and I wanted to get home before Isaac went to sleep, plus it had been a long day. So when the light changed, I drove on.
But the thought of stopping to talk with him would not leave me alone. I felt that he needed me to help him. I felt an urge to turn around and it was not going away. I got about a mile away and I could not ignore the thought any longer. I turned around and drove back to the park where I saw the man, hoping I had not missed my opportunity.
He was still there. I pulled over, turned on my emergency lights (not sure why, just seemed like the thing to do) and grabbed all the change I had in the car. I walked over to the man, who was staring off into space and with the grace and people skills of a wildebeest said, “Hi!!” The man jumped a little.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. I saw you sitting over here and thought you could use this” I stupidly said as I thrust both hands towards him with all my change (I swear I have talked to people before I don’t act this stupidly…or maybe I do).
“Oh…sure….thanks.” he said. He took the change and put it in a small bag on his cart. I sat down on the bench next to him, introduced myself and asked him how his day was going. He told me his name was Larry and that he had been doing pretty well but then he realized he’d gotten two chiggers (thorny things) in his foot and he could not get them out. He told me he was probably going to get more because the only shoes he had was a lace less shoe and a sandal.
I smiled at him and said, “I think I have something else for you.” I ran back to my car and pulled out my running shoes I bought 6 months ago to wear when I work out. Naturally…I wore them once and they have been sitting in my car ever since. I ran back to my car, pulled them out of the trunk and carefully placed them on the man’s feet. Before I left, I gave him a hug (one of those good firm hugs) and told him about a free clinic that could help remove the thorns and clean his feet.
The whole event made me wonder about the number of missed opportunities I drive by every day. Chances to share the love of God in small ways, that my schedule or rather my own narcissism, blind me from being a part of. I understand that life is busy, we all have places we feel like we need to be. Good places, good things to do. Yet, God does not work around our schedules. Opportunities to share God’s love abound, unplanned moments where the God of Creation is moving that He wants us to be a part of.
Too often, we abuse the planned moments we build into our schedules, where we share God’s love. We attend church outreach events, go to service projects etc. We take these moments and feel that our jobs are done. We think, “I’m not as selfish as others because I spent one weekend (and really this is about 4 hours) doing something for someone else.”
Yet, when we have this attitude (which is not really a conscious attitude for many, I believe this is more of an unintended consequence) we miss the point. We miss the mark on who God is calling us to be.
We are called to be people whose first priority is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Jesus Christ is the center of who we see ourselves as being and with that in mind, we live with eyes open and searching. We are searching for those small moments to share Jesus with people. It strikes me, that some of the greatest lessons Jesus taught were with the random people he came across in His travels. And it is true for our lives today. The Samaritan did not plan to help a guy on the side of the road…he just saw him and treated him as any neighbor would treat another.
I’m going to try and be less focused on my own schedule. I’m going to try and let my love for people be my main motivator for life and as such, I’m going to work at noticing others around me. I’m going to work to look for the opportunities God is placing before me and Lord willing, actually have the good sense to stop and participate in them. And Lord willing, I’m going to slowly get better at not being so self-focused.
Btw, Isaac was still up when I got home and happy to see me, so my schedule was not as rushed as I thought it was…there’s something to be made with that point, but I’ll let you figure it out =).