Friday, July 11, 2014

Mercy is Never Deserved

I saw a man with a sign today.  I mean, yes, it happens just about every day.  But today's sighting was more of an encounter.  As I approached the intersection, the traffic light turned yellow.  As I slowed down and eventually came to a stop, I looked to the right and saw him.  At the corner of Somewhere and Somewhere Else, he stood there holding his sign and staring a hole through me.  To complicate things, I drive a convertible.  We might as well have been standing next to each other in an elevator.

After adjusting the radio, looking at my phone, and hoping for the quickest red light in the history of traffic, I was out of options.  So our eyes met.  And I did the only thing a guy with no cash, spare change, or groceries could do.  I waved.

It was as if I was saying, "Hey brother.  I hope you have a great time hanging out here in the heat."

Had I not been on my way to a scheduled meeting with a client, I might have gone to the gas station and purchased a few items to bring back to him.  But I was.  So I didn't.

My selfishness and arrogance took over and I decided to do nothing.

And then it happened.

To make myself feel better I began to justify my cold heart.  I started wondering how that man got himself into that situation.  Had he embezzled money and lost his job?  Did he cheat on his wife and get kicked out of the house?  Was he like Cousin Eddie who held out for a management position?

In other words, I began to question whether or not he deserved my help.

We do this kind of thing all the time.

We see someone in need and want to the know story before we show mercy.

It's a shame really.  It means we have lost sight of our own poverty.  It is a sign that we don't realize that we too are one bad chapter in our lives away from making our own sign with a dull Sharpie.

Who are we to say someone does not deserve mercy?

It is true that if we commit to serving others, we will serve some who try to take advantage of us.  We will serve some who are not grateful.  We will serve some who willfully made poor decisions to put themselves in a difficult place.

But in the end, we are all broken and needy.

There may come a day when we find ourselves on the outside.

Do we really want others to base their help on how much we deserve it?

I can't help but think how powerful it would have been if I had told the man with the sign that I would be back in a few minutes...and then I actually came back with a grocery bag full of hope.

I don't need to know how he got there to know how to help.

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