1.17.2014

The Lessons You Learn While Waiting for Your Bus

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Last week, I had a meeting with a colleague of mine in South Philadelphia, so I headed southbound on the Broad Street Line, got off, and waited for a bus to take me to the doorstep of his building.  It was, to quote a Winnie the Pooh book, a very cold and blustery day, and I looked down the street in vain, trying to will the bus to come sooner.

While I was waiting, a fairly menacing-looking dude approached me and gruffly asked if I had a phone because he needed to call his mom.  When I didn't immediately respond affirmatively, he insisted that I could hold the phone the whole time and that all he needed was to tell his mom something.  I mumbled something about my phone being low on battery and that's when he lit into me: "You're lying and I know it.  That's cowardly!  You're a liar and a coward!"  And then he stormed off.

Now, it's never good to be called a liar and a coward, but I've been called far worse before.  And, it was broad daylight and there were plenty of people around, so I never really feared for my safety.  But the incident still shook me.

It shook me because I profess to believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, the whole nine.  And it's pretty clear that the living out of that belief includes, at the very least, doing something for people when they are in need.  And yet I never once had even an inkling of desire to help this poor guy. 

Now, you might argue that I was just being prudent: he could have hurt me or tried to scam me.  But, within reason, the Christian is supposed to take that risk.  As noted, it would not have been much of a risk for me to pull out my phone, dial the number the guy told me to dial, and hold the phone to his head while I spoke with his mom.  It would not have been much of a risk but it could have been a meaningful act of charity toward a fellow man.

Why did I not help, and why did I not once even consider helping?  Was I so caught up in my own troubles that I couldn't get out of them for one second to assist someone in more need than me?  Did I feel no sense of connection with someone so different from me in dress and demeanor?  Was it because the guy was black?

The thing about living in the city is that when you go from Point A to Point B, sometimes God inserts Himself into your path to provide you with a life lesson.  He has a lot of work left to do on me, so I better keep my eyes open for more such lessons in my travels.
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