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April 10, 2010

There But For The Grace of God Go I

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/there_but_for_the_grace_of_god_20100410/

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Yesterday I got off the 101 freeway at Coldwater Canyon.  I was on the exit, waiting to turn north onto Coldwater.  There were two cars in front of me, and a homeless man at the light asking for help.  I got a dollar out of my purse, opened the window, and waited for him to come. 

He stopped at the car in front of me, which was a black Mercedes Benz.  It was a beautiful car, and new, based on the fact that the dealer plates were still in place.  There was a man driving the car, he was smoking, and had his driver side window open.

The homeless man approached the Mercedes to ask for help.  As he got close to the car, the man driving did the unimaginable.  He yelled at the guy to F-off, and screamed at him to not touch his car.  He was yelling so loudly, that he scared the homeless gentleman, who told him he was sorry.

The light turned green and the Benz driving idiot took off, with his parting word to the homeless man of “asshole”, lingering in the air.  It was shocking, and heartbreaking.  If the light had not turned green, I would have gotten out of my car, and said a few choice words myself.

I grabbed my purse, pulled 5 bucks out of my wallet, and inched forward to the man.  People are now honking for me to go, because they are going to miss the green light.  Who cares?  I called out to the man as he had walked back to the corner, humiliated.

He came over, I gave him the money, told him I was sorry for the idiot that took off, and wished him well.  He looked at the money, and very softly, asked me if I wanted some change.  Can you imagine?  The man is concerned I gave him too much money, and asked if I wanted some back.

I told him I wanted him to keep it all, and was sorry I could not help more.  He looked me in the eye, thanked me, and said that God would bless me.  The light is now red, so I’ve got a minute to chat.  I told him that God blesses me every day, and asked what his name was.

“Rick” told me he appreciated the money, and was going to use it to feed his dog, which was on another corner with his wife.  I told him I was happy to help, wished him well, and said I would keep him in my prayers.  As I pulled away, I saw that the car behind me, gave him money.

There but for the grace of God go I.  We do not know what the circumstances were which made this man homeless.  We do not know how long he has been living this way, or what he has done to remedy his current situation.  All we know for sure, is that he is a human being.

There is no need to be unkind.  You don’t have to ever give homeless people money.  You don’t have to be charitable at all.  What is required however, is to not strip away someone’s dignity, because you think you are somehow better than they are.

I am sick and tired of people being mean.  I have lived my life with times of great prosperity, and also lived paycheck to paycheck.  I know how hard it is to struggle to get by, and I am quite certain that going on the street to beg strangers for help, is harder than walking into the bank to cash a paycheck.

It takes no effort to be kind and decent.  A single word can make or ruin a day.  How amazing is it, that we have the power to lift each other up, or knock each other down, with one word.  To abuse that power is senseless.  Again, There but for the grace of God go I.

If you take 10 people, homeless, middle class, and super rich, put them all in the same clothes, and line them up, we are all the same.  Will people ever stop to remember, that in the end, we are all human beings, and must at the very least, try to respect each other?  Who cares?  I do, so I am going to keep the faith.

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