This week, a couple of odd things happened as I was going about my regular business. I pay attention to occurrences like these, because I assume there must be something I’m meant to learn or pay special attention to.
For example, when I’m totally annoyed and short of patience while driving, I take that as a message that my best bet is to get off the road, go home, and chill. Or, when I find myself in constant conflict with various individuals,that may be a sign that I might well be the source of conflict and I may need to re-evaluate what’s going on with my relationships.
Last weekend, as I got out of my car to head into Jazzercise, I was approached by a young woman.
“Hi!” she said. “Oh my gosh, I just ran out of gas. I don’t have my debit card. I’m a Western student and I’m on my way to work. I’m going to be late. The gas station won’t give me any gas until I have a $10 deposit. Can you help me?”
Well, I’m nobody’s fool. The old “ran out of gas” trick, eh? I paused for a moment.
But, something seemed different about this girl. She was dressed just like I might be on any given day, and she wore a bright and earnest expression upon her face.
“Where do you work?” I asked.
“Cruisin’ Coffee,” she said with a smile.
“Hmm.” I said. I looked into my wallet. “I don’t have $10, but I have $3.” I handed her three one-dollar bills.
“Thank you!” she said. “I never carry cash!”
“Me either,” I said. “Just happened to have a little.”
She hustled back across the parking lot, and I entered the Jazzercise studio.
Yesterday morning, I met up with my sister on the sidewalk. She was leaving Jazzercise just as I was entering.
I heard someone approach behind me.
“Hi!” a female voice called out. “I just ran out of gas! I’m a Western student. I’m on my way to work. Can you help me?”
I looked at her.
“I just gave you some money a few days ago,” I said.
“Oh!” she said.
I looked at my sister.
“Wow,” I said.
This morning, I placed Valerie in her stroller and began walking across the same parking lot. A man crossed in front of me. He was determined upon his path and did not say anything, but I spent a moment observing him as he passed.
Although it was a cold and rainy morning, he wore shorts. Gold shorts. Tight gold shorts, adorned with sparkles and glitter. I noticed his bare legs, and then I saw the boots he wore. Black rubber boots, decorated in rainbow-colored hearts.
My first thought was that he must be cold in that outfit on such a rainy and dreary day. My second thought was, why is he wearing that outfit? What is his story?
Suddenly, I thought about his parents. Whose son is he? Where is his family? Where did he come from?
I thought back to the girl who’d asked me for money twice in a row. What was her story? Where was her family? Why was she asking for money? What went wrong?
What’s really going on?
I don’t know. I wish I did.
George and I don’t normally give money to folks on the street, because we give generously to organizations that help people on the street. In addition, we sponsor a family in town, and we also sponsor two children in Haiti. We give.
I don’t know if the girl asking for money was an addict, or if she was put up to her con by someone bigger and more threatening than her.
I don’t know if the man scurrying across the parking lot, wearing gold shorts and rainbow boots, was cast out of his home and family for being different, or if he was doing just fine.
I don’t know. But I wonder.
And more than that, I care.
In this political season, I read Facebook and Twitter posts every day centered on politics. About 95% of my friends and associates are liberals and/or democrats. I am an Independent. Even somewhat a right-leaning Independent.
I read each day online about how heartless conservatives are. I scroll through my feeds, reading about the evils of Republicans. How they don’t care. Don’t give. How they judge. And condemn. And blame.
But you know what?
This is not any more true for the right than it is for the left. The hard left can also judge, condemn, assume, blame, and ridicule.
I do care.
I care about the young woman asking me for money, and I care about the young man in shorts hustling across the lot in the rain. I care about this country. I give money here and abroad. So does my husband. I’m tired of being told that because I’m not a liberal, I don’t care. Because I’m not a registered Democrat, I’m heartless.
We work hard and pay a ton of taxes. We donate. We give. We care. We care about our family, and we also care about yours.
There’s a lesson in here somewhere, but I’ve yet to determine exactly what it is.