Thoughts from a Sanctified(ish) Mind

Living in the Margin

By: Jeffrey Howard
By: Jeffrey Howard

First of all let me say that I tell this story not to pat myself on the back, but instead out of conviction for all of the moments like this that I let pass me by.

First of all let me say that I tell this story not to pat myself on the back, but instead out of conviction for all of the moments like this that I let pass me by.

 

Yesterday as I was pulling into a restaurant to pick up a quick dinner, I noticed a man sitting in a motorized wheelchair in the middle of one of the turning lanes. I drove around him and pulled into an open parking spot. As I looked back at the man I could see the distress on his face as car after car after car swerved to get around him.

 

I vividly remember the first thought I went through my mind, “Damn it. Now I’m gonna have to help this guy.”

 

I then spent the next minute or so trying to talk myself out of going over and offering assistance to the man in need.  I told myself, “You’ve already ordered your food. If you end up helping him it will be cold by the time you get home. Besides, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Someone else will be able to help him better than you can anyway.”

 

I literally had my hand on the door of the restaurant while I was processing my next move. Begrudgingly, I started the walk over to the man. I had made it all of about 10 steps before I became my own worst enemy once again. I was literally standing in the middle of the parking lot thinking to myself, “If you go any further, he’ll see you. Then you’ll be forced to help him. This is it, point of no return.”

 

I couldn’t shake Matthew 25 from my mind “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 

Well, that was it, now I had to help him. I asked what the problem was and he told me that his battery was going dead and he needed to be pushed (approximately 500 yards) to the Exxon across the street so he could charge his battery. Great, only one problem. The “street” he needed pushed across is more of an 8-lane bypass, known as Poplar.

 

His cart had just enough juice to move (very slowly) if he pushed the joystick forward as I pushed him. So, we started the journey. He began to tell me that he had recently been hit by a car while in his wheelchair trying to cross the street no more than a week ago. I would soon realize how and why he was hit when he proceeded to tell me that we “don’t need to walk all the way to the crosswalk, we’ll be fine crossing here”.

 

After some convincing on my part, we decided to go the safe route and go ahead and utilize the safety of the crosswalk.

 

We had made it just over half way across Poplar when his chair’s battery died. All the way died, leaving us stuck in the middle of the road. I just looked up at the sky, thinking that the Lord must have a good sense of humor.

 

I could still push him, but instead of just “nudging him in the right direction”, I was now trying to push about 350 pounds of man and cart. Needless to say, we weren’t moving very quickly.

 

At that same moment I see Matthew Love, a friend, running towards us. He offers the assistance needed to get the man across the Exxon parking lot to the plug where he charges his chair.

 

The man is overwhelmed with gratitude. He keeps saying, “I don’t know what I woulda done without you boys helpin’ me. I don’t. God bless you boys. God bless ya.”

 

On the walk back to my car I couldn’t shake one thought … How many times a day do I drive past these people? People in need. People I can help. Far too many times I pass on these opportunities.

 

Did it honestly take anything from me to help this man? In reality it took 10 minutes of my day to give him the help that he so desperately needed.

 

What if we didn’t always assume that someone else would help? What if each of us did something like this each day as opportunities arose? What if we left “margin” in our schedules so times like these could happen? Jesus did. Some of His most teachable moments were not only the appointments, but also what happened on His way to and from them.

 

Your moment probably won’t involve helping a homeless man in a motorized cart. But, it may be you helping someone who is at the gas station getting $3 worth of gas … and you help them get $13 instead. It may be you offering a ride to that guy who is walking down the street in the pouring rain. It may simply be you taking the time to say an encouraging word to, or God forbid, actually leave a decent tip for the waitress at Applebee’s who is clearly having a terrible day.

 

 

This isn’t a Christian/non-Christian issue; it’s an issue of humanity. What if we could each play our role in helping someone else see that there still is good in the world?

 

This is a challenge to each of you reading this. Don’t be the people who swerve around the man in the broken down cart. Don’t be the people who watch a single mother have to pick and choose which groceries she will take home. Don’t be the people who watch someone hope that their 1-gallon of gas gets them home. Be the people who live in the margin. Be the people who take action. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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