Thursday, September 26, 2013

Casting Your Shadow: The Good Samaritan Story

Since we moved to our new neighborhood, we are now taking a new route to get to all of our activities, daycare, school, work, etc…  While traveling this route, our family has noticed an elderly gentleman probably in his late 70’s-80’s walking to and from the local shopping area.  He is tall and very thin, almost frail looking.   He walks regardless of the weather and on the way back he is carrying shopping bags.  Every time I see him I would think, “I really need to give him a ride”, especially in 40 degrees below or  90 degrees with a humidity level over 75% weather, when it was raining, snowing, or whatever. However, I always came up with some excuse as to why I shouldn’t stop:
  1. My car is too dirty. Believe it or not this was the #1 reason that I would come up with as I use the passenger side of my car as a trash can.
  2. It will scare my children.  I teach my kids not to talk to strangers, so why should I?  What if they get upset or scared?  I did not want to traumatize them.
  3. I do not have enough time. I’m always in a rush, speeding to somewhere, I possibly can’t take time out of my day to help this man.
  4. What if he attacks me? Time and time again, you hear hitchhiking stories about people getting attacked when picking up strangers.  I did not want to end up in a 5x5 room with his love child.
  5. What if he has a weapon (knife, gun, knumchucks, etc..)?  I pictured every type of weapon imaginable, like this gentleman was a martial art expert or a Unabomber.
  6. I’m scared.  Basically, all of the above boiled down to #6.

All of these bothered me as basically they were the easy way out not to be a neighbor to this man.  Every time I saw him my heart would sink and I would question myself why I couldn’t gather the courage to just pull over and ask him.  I even saw him one time in a store, right next to me in the pharmacy section.  Why couldn’t I reach out to him then while I had witnesses?  Was I a coward? Have I been brainwashed by our society that is so quick to report every little thing that occurs?  Have I become a scared incompetent person that did not care about a person in need?
Now, I’m not a very religious person but I do consider myself spiritual.  I grew up in a very religious family and the story of the “Good Samaritan” kept popping into my head.  What if this man is Jesus in disguise and he is waiting for someone, anyone to reach out and help him? (ok, I know that was extreme, but I thought it.) What if I am being tested on some spiritual level to make me more aware and to not be afraid to help someone else in need regardless of how I feel about it?  The “what if’s” were endless I tell you.  At this point I would fantasize about pulling over and helping him. It was very detailed, down to what I would say and how I would offer him to call me anytime he needed a ride yet I couldn’t bring myself to stop for him.

Is this the person I want to be?  Is this the person I want my kids to be?  I recently took a corporate culture class that discussed “casting your shadow”, which essentially means how you act, react, speak, etc… is seen by everyone that you come in contact with and they are affected by it.  Relating this back to the home front, if I yell at my children and then I hear them yell at each other or their friends, isn’t that the shadow I’m casting, telling them that it is ok to act this way?  I do not want to cast that type of shadow (and I’m still working on it), and I do not want to cast the shadow to them that we should ignore others that are in need because we are scared or whatever the reason is.  I want them to be brave loving people that wouldn’t think twice about reaching out to help someone.  I want my children to be compassionate and caring as well.  If I continue to ignore this man, aren’t I teaching them the opposite of all of this?  I have many faults, fears, and limitations, but that does not mean I have to pass these on to my children.  What would I do?  Could I muster the balls to do this?

Finally after 10 months of seeing this man walking rain or shine and all of this contemplation, I saw him once again. Guess what?  My car was clean!  I had only one child with me and he is definitely the more resilient one of the two.  I had nowhere to go or be, we were just tootling along. I had my cell phone set to 911 if any funny business happened so I turned around and pulled over.  I waved to him through the windshield and as he approached I rolled down the passenger window.  I said, “Hello, can we offer you a ride?”.  He thanked me and said that he walked to get exercise and if he didn’t keep walking he was afraid he’d stop all together.  He told me he appreciated us pulling over and thanked us again.  With this, he started along his route home. 

I sat there a minute to collect myself.  Ten months of contemplation, worry, and strife washed over me.  He didn’t want our help and that is ok.  This was a journey about me and about the person that I want to be and how I can show that person to my kids so that they too can learn.  I can now add brave and compassionate to my human resume.  This makes me proud and I know when one of my children tells me a similar story in the future, I will not be able to contain my pride and jubilation.

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

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