I’m sitting in a LaQuinta Inn, exhausted and depleted. I’m late with my blog. I can’t use my lap top on the road nor when visiting with friends and relatives. My fast paced life at home has dissolved into a haze of calorie laden fast food, sleepless nights, and indigestion.
I forgot my camera and can’t record flashes of inspiration or beauty. My husband finally remembered the camera on his I-pad; a new toy that has brought him much joy. Now on the tail end of our trip, we’ll have a few memories stored for the future.
One unique incident stunned me into reality. At an intersection in Macon, Georgia, out of nowhere a man charged past us. I studied his bulky figure. He had blonde hair, and a bushy blonde beard. He was wearing the dirtiest shirt I had ever seen. It was split on both sides, exposing his pale flesh. My first impression was that he worked in a coal mine or tar pit. His trousers were filthy sweat pants; knees torn exposing skin. For a belt, a piece of twine was tied about his waist to hold up his pants.
The shoes were unforgettable. He had used some kind of cloth to wrap his feet. Twine was tied at the ankles to hold them together. He reminded me of the stories I’d read about the poor Peasants several centuries earlier. Was he dressed for a Renaissance Festival? Did he work in a coal mine? Was he a blacksmith? Or was he a Georgia “mountain man” coming out of hiding to go from one place to another?
I’ll never know his story. It’s hard to believe that in this age of food stamps, food pantries, fund raisers and charitable shelters that someone would choose to live this way. Some people do fall through the cracks. Their chosen lifestyle and lack of hope and incentive have made them recluses from society. Mind changing events happen in an instant. This nanosecond before the street light changed will affect my attitudes about poverty forever.
A few weeks ago I was filling in for our Office Manager at church when a man came in to receive help for gas. Our Board of Directors had recently cut this practice from the budget for lack of funds, but we do give away bags of food to people in need. He was ever grateful for the help. He pulled out a shredded wallet to show me his driver’s license and asked if I knew where he could get some help for gas. I pulled $20 from my own wallet and handed it to him.
Was he a scammer; a person who goes from place to place asking for handouts? Did it really matter? My instinct was to give him the help without judgment. No matter what situation we find others in, it is up to us to be compassionate. “There but for the grace of God go I” is a phrase I always say to myself. Anyone of us could have a streak of bad luck, a reversal in fortune or health. It is imperative that we help others. When we “cast our bread upon the water” it will surely come back to us in our time of need.
The chain of love and caring connects us to every man, woman and child on the earth. Empathy and compassion form an eternal circle that continues on forever.