Today I don’t have any great wisdom to share with you. I just have something on my mind that I’d like to share and possibly hear what you think on the subject. Let me tell you my story.
A couple of days ago I decided to make a quick run to the grocery store before my children got home from school. I knew it would have to be a “in and back out” trip in order to be back home in a comfortable timeframe for the kid’s bus. So, I hopped in my car and began the short drive over to the store intent on my course.
About halfway there I passed a woman coming in the opposite direction. She was walking, but very weighed down by several sacks of groceries. I mean that literally, she had a cloth bag with several items protruding from it around her neck and the weight of it combined with the weight of the bags in her hands was giving her a hunched over posture and an unsteady pace. It wasn’t the hottest day we’ve had, but it was hot enough. Now here comes my confession. As I swept by her in my air conditioned car, my first thought was only, “Poor woman.” I was a good 100 feet away before I even began to think if there was a way to help her and my thoughts were all negative.
Now, before you judge me too harshly, let me tell you about those thoughts. When I see someone walking beside the road, whether they are looking for a ride or not, I pass them. Why? Because I live outside of a major city that isn’t exactly known for its safety ratings in the best of situations, it simply isn’t wise for a woman alone to even consider picking up a stranger, even when their need seems to be great. So, I’ve become accustomed, or hardened I guess, to those around me while I drive. It takes conscious effort now to note those who might have legitimate needs. I’m rather ashamed of that. I know that the majority of the people I pass really are in need, or at least worse off than I am in my working, comfortable car, but I’m not willing to take the change on stumbling on to the one or two that may not be so needy and are rather malicious and greedy. That lack of generosity on my part feels a bit uncomfortable to my role as a disciple of Christ. Since I’m big on prayers of action it seems a bit ineffective to just offer a quick prayer in their behalf as I go on my way. Still, I did not stop for this woman, because: I was alone and I was in a hurry. I didn’t call my husband to try and come take her where she needed to go because he was still at work an hour away in that large city. I did not do anything except make excuses about what I could not do as I drove on to my destination.
I can still picture her in my mind several days later and wonder if there really was something I could have done for her instead of completing my grocery store run. Do you want to know what bothers me the most? I was on a busy road. I was not the only one who passed her. I was not the only one who saw her, or didn’t even notice, and kept right on going.
Why do simple acts of kindness, trying to live as the Savior would, seem like such large feats sometimes? I think it’s because we live in a very unkind world. That comes with two faces: those who could help but won’t because it does not provide any benefit for them in return and those who would like to help, but fear the unkind consequences that their actions could be met with.
So, that’s my question to you today. What is it that the disciple can do to make the world a better place without putting themselves in danger? How can we put the random back in random acts of kindness when we have to calculate the safety of any “random” situation? I can not pick up a complete stranger on the side of the road. I can not offer to comfort stranger’s child. I can not offer to help pick up someone’s dropped items without making a conscious effort to let them see they got all their goods back when I’m finished. I can not offer money to someone on the street with out pausing longer than I should or showing them where my money is kept. In some parts of the city, it may not even be safe to meet someone’s eye and smile without it being taken wrong.
I, like many of you, want to serve my Savior. I don’t want to tune out another’s needs to protect myself. I could take a Daniel and the lions’ den approach, but my faith isn’t great enough for that. I much more readily heed the council to be cautious and reasonable in my actions.
I drove past a complete stranger with a bag of groceries around her neck and it still bugs me. How can we express the Savior’s love, how can we continue to be kind in a very unkind world?