By Leah Martorana
The other day, something amazing happened when I decided to embrace the uncomfortable.
I saw a man in the parking lot and could tell at first glance he was in need of something. To be honest, my first thought was to turn away and stare down at the concrete to avoid the conversation. But instead I decided to look up, make eye contact, and hear what he had to say. I could tell it was taking every ounce of energy in him to swallow his pride and ask me for help. He said his name was Russell and he just needed enough money to get to the Salvation Army where he could spend the night and get a meal. He told me he was a veteran, a heart patient, and due to a chain of events he had recently found himself temporarily homeless. He pulled out his wallet and showed me his military ID as if to prove he was telling the truth. I thought about how this came to him so naturally. Like he had been proving himself and explaining himself to other people for so long that he didn’t even have hope that someone would believe him or take his word at face value. That made me feel sad.
I looked in my purse and didn’t have any cash. Ordinarily I would have told him this and then been on my way. Most likely I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I’m ashamed to say I’ve done it many times. But on this day, I didn’t walk away. I drove across the street, stopped at an ATM, took out some cash and bought a bottle of water. I went back and handed the cash and water to Russell. Tears filled his eyes and he took my hand and prayed the most beautiful prayer for my family and me. I was a bawling mess. He told me thank you but I was the one who won. I had “things to do” but this small change in my day made a huge impact on me.
I don’t share this for a pat on the back because his response was far more rewarding than any compliments here could ever be. I share this to encourage each of us to soften our hearts just a little bit and embrace uncomfortable.
Pay it forward. It may be awkward to talk to the complete stranger. Thoughts enter your head and cause you to be fearful. Sometimes we feel entitled to judge the person and whether or not they have good intentions. We wonder how they could have arrived in a tough situation. But what if we didn’t question or judge and we gave just a little bit more freely – no questions asked?
Many years ago I read a book titled “Same Kind of Different As Me”. One part that stuck with me was when the main character, a homeless man, describes how for years people had avoided looking at him in the eyes. One of the best things that happened in his life was not receiving a handout from somebody but experiencing the love of someone showing him respect and making eye contact. Somebody actually looking him square in the face and interacting with him as a human being without any judgment. Everyone deserves that.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40