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A failure in compassion

September 20, 2009

The other day as I approached the outside gate of our apartment building a middle-aged man came towards me and tried to sell me a package of tissues. I had a few Euro in my bag as well as a fifty-cent coin and at first shook my head and walked on to the gate, but then I hesitated. Should I give him some money? He had said he didn’t have a job and had a daughter to feed at home. Only thirty cents, he had begged. By the time I had decided to give him something, my courage failed me to run after him and instead I entered my apartment community. With a heavy feeling on my shoulders.

I had felt so good after going to gym and working out and now, well, now I felt like an ass.

These days in developed countries when we see beggers we see alocholics or drug-addicts. People that can’t seem to get it together and we think, “They’ll just waste it on drugs or alcohol.” We have been trained to look the other way when beggers approach us. It isn’t go to “feed the habit”. But these days when unemployment is at 18% here in Spain, I am wondering if these beggers really do have children at home and are so desperate that they are walking the streets, selling silly things in exchange for some compassion.

And I didn’t give it to him. After two days I am convinced that I failed my test of compassion. Again.

As I walked to my building’s door I was reminded of the Angel’s that knocked on Lots’ door. They were in human form and no one knew they were angels bt Lot believed and let them in. Then I thought about when Jesus said, “When you do these things to the least of them, you are doing as if unto me.” And I could hardly breathe.

I basically shunned God. When I shun those who are at their last rope, who have absolutely nothing left and have to resort to begging, literally beggin, in order to buy bread for their child, not meat, just bread, I have shown a hardened heart. A heart that has been taught by society to look the other way when people beg. “You never know what they will use the money for,” I have heard numerous times. But then, do we know what each store uses their money for? And what if we are in that position one day? Can you imagine not having even bread to give your child? Or only bread? can you imagine walking out of your house and drawing up the courage to ask strangers for help? Can you imagine yourself there?

Why not? I can. I’m sure it doesn’t take much to get there. One little crisis. Losing a job, not being able to find another. All your unemployment goes to trying to at least save your house. ….I can see it happening.

I can’t believe I failed. I hope the man comes back. I hope I have the courage next time to run after him. Why was I embarrassed? Was I embarrassed for him or for me? And what does it matter?

The point is I failed the test.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 21, 2009 2:26 am

    What a great post. I most often hesitate to help people because I’m uncomfortable – sometimes I feel unsafe, but mostly, just uncomfortable. So my first reaction is to shut myself off. But my heart aches for parents who can’t provide basic needs for their children. How horrible would it be for your child to be crying from hunger and have no way to feed her? I pray I will never know, but I your post reminds me that I need to do more in my daily life to make sure others aren’t having to feel that way, either.

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