"I could go back," I thought, "to give her a ride."
The Illinois friendly country girl felt a strong urge to turn her car around. The idea of helping made me feel good and excited and I felt my spirits lift.
How far away does she live I wondered? How far do these buses run? I had no time to spare to make it to my appointment, but I had been late before...for far less noble reasons. I thought about her reaction. Would it make her day if I pulled up in my beautiful car and offered to deliver them safely to their home? She would not have to wait in the sun with her tired toddler. She could save her bus fare money. She could put her child in his bed.
Then, like a knife cutting through my good will, I imagined the consequences. Perhaps, she would feel frightened by a stranger stopping to speak to her. I did not have a car seat for the child and I might get a ticket. She could live very far away or in a dangerous neighborhood. The child might be ill and contagious and I would be exposed. What if I had an accident? They might sue me in spite of my generosity.
Funny, everything that happened took place in only a few moments and was all inside my head. By now, I was several blocks away. Paranoia and precaution overtook my willingness to help. I was blind-sided by the reality of trying to help someone less fortunate than myself and I opted out. Ashamed and angry for my cowardice, I struggled to understand my heartlessness or was it just selfishness?
Certainly, I stayed sensible and safe from potential danger. However, somehow in that moment I became less of whom I wanted to be. In that missed opportunity to be courageous and generous, I became a part of a trend in our litigious society and was repulsed. Because I was clutching so tightly to my property, my security and my personal safety, I could no longer take a risk to help another person.
Is this why people, who are seeking a profound level of spirituality and love for their fellow beings, begin to unshackle themselves from "things?" Things that must be maintained, housed, repaired and guarded. If I had been in an old car, without much to lose and had lived a life of giving instead of too often accumulating perhaps I would have signaled, driven around the block and offered to give a friend a ride. Because the odds were just as good that she would be a friend, as they were that she would be a foe.
When did I lose the trust that people are mostly good? When did I cross over to taking care of me and letting the rest fend for themselves. What happened to my caring Midwestern roots that I love?
We have choices like these all day. Choices to listen to prejudice and escalation of derision and hatred, turn the channel, or walk away. We have choices with our political vote, and with our most effective choice of how we spend our dollar.
Today, I choose to put the brakes on fear and mistrust. There will be greater risk, but life is not meant to be simply long. I will start by finding some trust in my own decisions and maybe my instincts, too.
Next time, I hope I take a chance and ask, "Need a ride, Friend?"
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