About a week or two ago I had an experience that allowed me to see a very disturbing side of myself. A side of myself that I´m not proud to reveal. I still feel guilty about what I saw and refused to act upon . . .
It was late one night, after Brian´s baseball game, probably around midnight. Brian and I walked back to our hotel, but decided to go a few blocks further to buy some food at a local convenience store called the Oxxo (ox-oh). It was very dark, and very few people were out. As we approached the store I noticed a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. I didn´t see his face. I didn´t need to. I could tell he was homeless just from looking at his feet. They were so dirty they were black. He wasn´t begging for money, he was just sitting there, head down.
Being careful not to stare, I quickly glanced away. When we stepped into the Oxxo Brian said in shock, ¨Did you see that person?¨ I replied affirmitively, but was surprised by my husband´s intense concern and shock and asked, ¨Yes, why?¨ Brian preceded to tell me that he´d never seen someone in such bad shape. In my haste to look away I missed the fact that this man´s skin was covered in boils. I could tell by the look on my husband´s face that it was a horrifying sight. Brian mentioned something about buying him some food while we were in the store, but we didn´t. I don´t know why. We should have. Unfortunately, that´s not the most disturbing part of this story. As we walked out of the store, I again, was careful not to stare. Brian couldn´t help it. He was too burdened for this person.
Once we crossed the street Brian stopped and said something to the effect of, ¨I feel like I should go back and give him some money.¨ Something deep within me exclaimed, ¨Yes! Yes! That poor man needs help. Show him generosity.¨ But I began to rationalize. It felt dangerous, it was so dark out. I was scared. What if he was a madman, went crazy on us, or passed his disease along to us? (If you want to puke at my selfishness right now I wouldn´t blame you). Brian probably saw my hesitation because he began to walk in the direction of the hotel. As we were walking back I prayed, ¨Lord, if you want us to help that man, please let us run into him again. Preferrably in daylight.¨ And a very gentle, yet convicting voice said, ¨but he´s here now.¨
I still didn´t turn around.
As I laid in bed that night, I was riddled with guilt. I bought food at the store when I wasn´t even hungry, I ignored a most likely very hungry individual, and now I´m laying in my warm bed while he´s probably trying to sleep on a concrete sidewalk. In America there are homeless shelters and places that feed hungry people, but I have no idea if they have things like that in Mexico.
I asked myself as I laid in there, ¨What stopped me from helping that man tonight?¨ The answer came quickly. ¨Fear.¨ Fear of all the selfish things I described earlier: what if he goes crazy on us, follows us back to our hotel, touches us and gives us his disease? I think I even feared what I would see if I looked at him. The Bible says I am supposed to be an imitator of Christ. Jesus would have demonstrated His love for that man. Jesus was never afraid of a leper, but I was.
I wish I would have turned around. I wish I would have bent down and placed some food and money at his feet. And even though I can´t speak his language, I wish I just would´ve looked into his eyes and held his gaze so that he might see the love that God has for him. I believe that God would have communicated this to him, had I only turned around. It would have been worth it. Even if he scared me or did something weird.
It´s people like that homeless man that I believe God is referring to when He says, ¨But many who are first will be last, and the last first.¨ If I see that man in heaven, I will rejoice to see him in front of me.