Would You Help a Stranger?

Helping a disabled stranger get to the supermarket has a whiff of the divine.

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Posted in , Jul 25, 2017

Helping a stranger get to the grocery store has a divine aspect.

I’d just gotten off the train at the 125th St. station and had been reading The Cloud of Unknowing about what it means to practice a life of prayer.

I was heading west on 125th St. to the next train that would take me home, when I passed a man in a walker who was having trouble getting up the curb. “Can I help?” I asked.

“Please,” he said. I gave him a hand to get up on the sidewalk and figured I’d be on way when he asked, “Could you please push me to the supermarket?” 

I would like to tell you that I said, “Of course, no problem,” but because I’m a flawed human being, I confess I ungraciously responded, “But I’m going in the other direction.” As if I was late for some important appointment! 

“Okay,” I said, my better nature getting the better of me. 

He sat in the seat and faced me while I pushed him on the uneven sidewalk. A couple of times I hit some bumps and was afraid I’d trip and knock us both over. Finally we reached the supermarket (it was not very far).

I pushed him inside, wishing him well, ready to dart back outside. But he paused and put his hand on mine. “Can I get you something to eat?” he asked. “I have food stamps.” 

I was incredibly touched to think that this guy, who lived on a limited income, wanted to do something nice for me. It knocked the wind out of me.

“No, thank you,” I said. “But that’s very thoughtful.”

I said good-bye and headed on my way, thinking about something I’d read in that book about God and prayer: “He’s not asking for your help. He’s asking for you.”

And to think, I almost walked right by. 

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