I helped a homeless person today.
Ok, I know, big whoop, but I do have a point I want to make.
I had just finished getting gas at Safeway when I saw a guy in the parking lot who had tripped over one of the concrete curbs and fell backwards into some bushes. It was raining out, and as I drove by, I saw he was sort of struggling unsuccessfully to sit up on the curb. He was kind of leaned over to his side, one leg up in the air some to try to gain balance and sit up straight. From his hair-do to his clothing to the ruddy alcohol soaked shade of skin on his face, he looked like a local homeless type.
I drove by then did a u-turn in the parking lot. By the time I'd gotten to him (turns out his name is Steve), another young man was talking to Steve, asking if he was OK. Steve was jovial enough, not angry at all, telling us he was fine. He smelled like a brewery, so part of Steve's problem was clear enough.
The young man and I got Steve to his feet, where he pulled out some paperwork (discharge papers from a hospital) and told us he was just trying to get home to North Highlands - quite a jaunt from where I was at Madison and Dewey. The young man and I talked to Steve for a moment, getting him steady on his feet. The young man got Steve a bottle of water (Steve chuckled and asked if we had any beer), then the young man told me he had to go - his kid was in the truck waiting for him. I said I'd take care of Steve, and the young man left, pointing his finger skyward and telling Steve to "hang in there". The young man was a Christian, and I was grateful for that.
Another young man with several tattoos came by to see if I needed any help with Steve, and stood by with me while we talked for a couple of minutes. Soon the fire trucks arrived (someone must have called 911 when Steve fell), and the firemen took over from there, coaxing Steve into the ambulance for a ride back to the hospital to look at the scrape on his head he got when he fell. One of the fireman told me they knew Steve very well, and that they'd taken him to the hospital many a time. The tattooed fellow gave Steve about 5 bucks for the bus ride home when he left the hospital. Once in the ambulance, I told Steve to take care, and went on my way to visit my dad for breakfast.
Good deed, right? Yea for me, reaching out to the poor, stopping to help the lost and less fortunate, etc etc....
Do you know what my first reaction was as I drove by?
(Keep going. Don't stop.)
(He'll be fine.)
(He's grungy and dirty.)
(He's scary looking.)
(His hair is a mess and he has horrible skin.)
(Its wet outside, and you knew he's going to smell bad.)
(You're gonna be late to your dad's house.)
Get this, and I'm being honest here: it even flit through my mind, quick as a hummingbird, that -
(Maybe he likes the rain. Yeah, he's sitting on the curb in the Safeway parking lot, trying desperately to sit up, because he likes sitting in the rain.)
The reason I bring this up isn't to have anyone encourage me with "but you helped him!" or to be consoled by hearing "it's only natural to be afraid" or whatever. That's not the point. I'm glad I was obedient and stopped to help, and I pray Steve will be OK, and that God would have someone to help him in the future if he needs it.
I'm amazed, though, at just how quickly my "old self" asserted itself. The selfish thoughts came so quickly. The "you don't need to do anything" or "someone else will take care of it" thoughts flooded my mind so suddenly and so naturally.
This made me think of Paul's admonition in Romans 8:7, where he says, "the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will."
It took a thoughtful act of the will for me to turn my car around, and thank God the other young man had already started to check on Steve, because he gave me encouragement to get out and help, too.
More and more I'm learning that to follow Christ is a day by day, indeed often moment by moment, decision to yield to Him and follow him. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."
Much like a good marriage (where we make constant choices to honor our spouses and do what pleases and is good for them), we make daily, constant choices to honor Christ and do what pleases Him and is good for His glory.
I find "dying to self" to be much harder than anyone told me it would be. I'm hoping this is one of those things where we say - if it's not hard, it's not worth doing, right?