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On Looking the Other Way

One morning last week, hunched over my steering wheel, I grumbled about all the things I was unhappy about. Because my life is just so awful. (I kid, I kid.) The exact moment my heat finally decided to blow warm air through my vents, I passed a bus stop bench supporting a man huddled in a sleeping bag. Nothing like seeing homelessness to smack the self-pity right out of me.

There aren’t too many homeless around these-here parts. At least not many I see. I felt immediate guilt for whining about my petty “problems” while this man had no warm place to rest his head. So I—wait for it—did nothing.

I did nothing.

I didn’t know what to do. I had no cash on me and not even enough in the bank to meet my own needs at the moment. I didn’t know the back-story to land him on the bench in the first place. He could’ve been a Carnie-turned-crack-dealer resting his head after a long night of sales. Or I could’ve interrupted some sort of male rite of passage. Not to mention the bus stop was in an unsavory part of town and not the wisest place for a girl without reinforcements.

So I drove to my destination and pushed the memory of him from my mind. I’m sure most people would say sometimes there’s nothing you can do. And maybe they’re right.

But what if they’re wrong?

Have you ever looked the other way at an obvious need? If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

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  1. That’s a tough call this day in time! Especially when you are alone in a risky area. Our homeschool group has made blessing bags for just such occasions. Gallon size ziplocks w/ travel size toiletries, protein bars, etc. I have a friend who keeps a few in her car at all times. This time of year, you could add those little packets you can keep in your pocket to warm hands. Lots of possibilities!

    • beth

      Great idea Carol Anne! Seriously. Will get to work on some bags for my car.

      • That is a great idea from Carol Anne! You’re right. We have to be cautious, but a bag is a quick and safe way to help.

        Thanks so much for the post, Beth. I had a chance to benefit from your post later in the evening.

        I wanted to look the other way when a friend posted on FB, then took it down immediately. It was up long enough for me to see it, which let me know I needed to send her a message.

        She’s going through a tough time … marriage fell apart and her ex remarried yesterday. She sent me messages about her situation a couple of years ago, then again last year, so I knew I was someone she felt like she could talk to.

        However, I was tempted to just leave it alone. That is, until I remembered your post from just an hour or so earlier. 🙂 I sent her a message.

        • beth

          Wow Kim. Seriously proud of you for following through with your conviction!

  2. I so understand! It’s hard to know what to do. When I was in high school and riding with a parent or my brother to school every day, I used to look out the window and pray for the people I saw. I didn’t know their stories (I imagined some, of course) but I figured there’s not a person on earth who couldn’t use a prayer on their behalf. Even if we don’t know how to make a different physically, we’ve got a powerful spiritual tool right on the tips of our tongues.

    • beth

      Another great idea. Thanks Halee.

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