By Kristy Engel, RN, MSN, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
The last several weeks have been full of tragedies, both here in the US and around the world. Death, disease, hatred, anger and frustration seem to fill our lives and can be overwhelming. If I have learned anything from these events, I have learned that we all need to show more love to everyone and begin to live as though we really do care about the people around us. This love must be unconditional and be simply love. You can each be a light in your community but you have to stretch yourselves. I hope that today’s story will be a challenge for you as it was for me.
“Just out of prison…too scared to shoplift.”
I was leaving the grocery store earlier today and saw a man sitting outside a restaurant at the curb, head bowed and resting on his folded arms. I first thought he must be a worker from the restaurant taking a break and simply sitting outside for a moment for some fresh air, despite the hot day. Then as I passed by, I noticed the sign sitting by his legs: “Just out of prison, too scared to shoplift.” Wow.
The man never raised his head as I drove by (or as many others drove by) and I seriously debated whether I should return to offer some sort of help, most obviously a meal. I began thinking who I could call to go with me since it was probably a safer thing to do with someone else and not alone, then I thought maybe I should simply ask the young man what he needed and go from there. This mental discussion went on until I finally arrived at my own home. I didn’t stop and I didn’t do anything. I debated about what was best or could be done but in the end, I didn’t do anything to help.
I think that this is often the case with many of us when we want to do something to help with the problems we see in the world. The desire to help is there. The ideas about what could be done are present. Unfortunately, we all too often decide there are too many reasons why we shouldn’t do something. And so we choose to do nothing. Just like I did.
Now, many of you may already be thinking that I had lots of good reasons to choose NOT to help. I was being smart because this man could have been dangerous. He could have swindled me or taken advantage of my kindness. I’m not denying those possibilities. But something I saw in his posture and his message said he was beaten by life, had little hope left and was literally begging anyone to care about who he was. And I drove by.
In answer to those of you who say that I would probably have been swindled, I recently read something that I think is very important to remember. When Jesus healed the blind, He didn’t ask them what they would do with their sight. When He gave bread to the hungry, He didn’t ask them how they would use it. When Jesus gave to others, He simply gave; His gift to them wasn’t conditional. Why are our gifts conditional? Isn’t a gift, in and of itself, just that… something you give away so that it is no longer yours to control?
I have thought of this young man all day and prayed for him and his situation. I’ve prayed that someone did stop and talk with him and help him. I asked for forgiveness that I wasn’t courageous enough to be the one to stop. I don’t have much to give, but I have enough to have bought him a meal or taken time to listen if he simply needed someone to hear him. If we are tired of hearing about the tragedy around us every day, then we must step out of our comfort zones and believe that God will be with us during our uncomfortable times of stretching. Where is God calling you to serve or pulling at your heart to make a difference? You may think it is life-changing for someone else when you help, but I guarantee your life will also be changed in amazing ways! Please don’t talk yourself out of helping someone else today.
MedSend grant recipient Kristy Engel served for 12 years in the Dominican Republic, leading mobile medical clinics and relief efforts following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Now, she serves as a global consultant, visiting countries in need of health assessments, ongoing education, health team visits or other forms of collaboration during crisis and non-crisis situations. In this capacity, she served in Liberia during the most recent Ebola crisis.