My heart hurts. Why? When I saw the police officer sling a teenage girl on the ground and pull his gun out on a group of defenseless teenagers, I gasped in shocked. Since the incident happened so close to home, it hit a nerve. I wanted to respond, but I thought it would be smart if I waited. Then the South Carolina church shooting happened and my heart broke again. Why now?
I have been silent a long time. Frankly, I don’t like to talk about these things. I would love for everyone to just get along and play fair, but we live in an imperfect world. My parents taught me well. They knew it was very important that I learned the history and value of being an African American. At the same time, they emphasized learning and respecting all cultures. Also my family traveled and we had the privilege of befriending various types of people from different backgrounds. Throughout the years I bonded with Indians, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian (Oh, man and these friends knew how to cook), Puerto Ricans, country folk, New Englanders, and a hodge podge of everything in between. My friends and my parents taught me the art of staying open minded, kind hearted, and sticking to my core values. We had fun together, learned from our differences, disagreed, and had more fun together.
Unfortunately, not all people have been educated this way or have a heart that is open to others. They think they are superior in some way. They are nice people, and they do nice deeds for the unfortunate, the different. Yet, if their public status is in jeopardy or they truly believe that there are those that are inferior or deserving of their fate, they scoff, spit, and or look away. Sometimes that person is me.
I am ashamed to admit such a fact. I know how it feels to be mistreated because of my race, gender, religion, education, and just being me, specifically. Most days I shrug it off and go about experiencing life with people who are genuine and are okay with who I am. Fakeness and pretentiousness are the only traits that I truly hate. I pride myself in befriending anyone, especially if they are quick to laugh and share an appreciation for one of the following: food, sports, movies, and books! So I don’t know why I acted the way I did a couple weeks ago.
In downtown San Francisco, My brother and I stood on the sidewalk waiting for the walking signal. Forever 21 waited across the street. It was raining, but not enough to dampen our spirits. We were determined to enjoy every moment of our vacation in San Fran. Then it happened. While waiting for the walking signal light, I saw a lady in a wheel chair. She was struggling to wheel her way to my side of the street. I glanced up watching her slow progress. I almost said something. I almost ran to assist her the rest of the way to the sidewalk, but she didn’t ask for help and I stayed frozen in place. She appeared to be a resilient lady, but she also looked like life had not treated her well. Some would have said she was homeless. The lady made it to the curve, but because the sidewalk was slick or the wheelchair was broken she couldn’t quiet roll onto the sidewalk. She kept sliding backwards. I opened my mouth to ask her a question. I thought maybe someone else will help her. I am only a tourist. What if she gets upset? Why is she not asking anyone for help? Is she crazy? I turned, twitched my hand. I was going to help. Maybe. Suddenly, another lady ran up and wheeled her onto the sidewalk as I stood there reviewing my options. The walking man signal appeared and I walked away with the rest of the pedestrians. All I could think was “Man, I just stood there.”
I really wish the story had been different. I wonder if I was seven years old again, if I would have hesitated. When I was seven, my mom read the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) before we fixed up our first shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. “When we are serving those in need, no matter who they are, we are showing our true love for Jesus,” she said. As I placed toys and other necessary items in the box, I knew that I loved being a Good Samaritan and I wanted to do more acts of service. The thought that I could be the two men who looked away from the helpless man beaten by robbers was unthinkable to my seven year old brain.
As I grew older, I became aware of people’s opinions. I realized sometimes serving and being nice is hard. It takes the sacrifice of your time, reputation, money, friends and family, and in the everyday life sometimes it can be a little inconvenient. Sometimes Jesus is not the most important part of my life. Sometimes, like the priest and temple assistant, I am scared of what will happen to me if I help, speak up, or defend my beliefs. I hope a braver man will come along, because I love myself too much.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is what Jesus told a religious expert, but the guy was confused. I am pretty sure this expert was like you and I. He was a nice friendly guy. He probably went to church, tithed, participated in a fun run, donated to a charity, and went on the occasional mission trip, but Jesus said he needed to show compassion like the Samaritan. Be aware in daily life, and show some kindness.
How? It depends on your neighborhood. It might mean asking a fast food employee how there day is or listening to someone share their struggles, beliefs, or journey. It may look like writing an encouraging note to the mailman or playing ball with the neighborhood kids. Don’t look the other way, and if you are afraid, say a quick prayer for courage.
Thankfully, there was a Samaritan who made a difference in the wheel chair lady’s life. This summer I pray to be more of a Samaritan. We need more Samaritans, especially now. Instead of judging, let’s look for ways to make a positive difference. There will always be robbers and bullies who beat people down. Let us extend a helping hand to these people. Every life matters.