So I did it.
I’ve always looked down on the religious guys that keep going when they see a guy in need on the street, because they are too busy. What self righteous doinks they are!
But now I’m quite certain I am one of them.
It was the other day. I was on the subway on my way to my communal contemplation group. We meet once a month on Sunday afternoons and spend almost the entire hour in silence listening to what God may be saying to us individually and as a group. It was my turn to lead a thought that day and so I was in a rush. Plus, the subway was down on part of the route so I had to get on a weird shuttle bus which isn’t easy in a wheelchair. So I was going to be late.
Then I got in the subway finally and there was a guy not wearing a mask. I felt my righteous indignation rising and I was almost about to say something to him. But then he leaned over to the guy across the hall from him and started talking to him. It turns out he was a crack addict and he could sense that the guy across from him was an addict as well. And sure enough he was right. So they chatted and I was eavesdropping and the guy I was getting annoyed at said he was six days clean and was new to the city and was feeling very lonely. He was on the verge of relapsing so that he could be with his one and only friend crack cocaine.
The guy from across the hall from him had to leave. And then I started talking to him saying what i used to do for a living. When he said that I wasn’t judging him, we started to have a good chat. My stop was the next one but I really wanted to talk more with him. But I was also late. So I wished him luck, told him I would pray for him, and then I left…
I think back on that encounter all the time. In the moment I was panicking, because I was going to be late. But really, if I were thinking at all, I should have kept going with him and talked longer. Or I could have invited him to get off at my stop and buy him a coffee or something. But instead I just gave him some trite words and left. I left him all alone.
Later that night as I was going through my day in my mind I finally began to realize what an idiot I was. I was that religious man that kept on going when there was a person in need right in front of me. I was that guy that cared more about the prayer time that I was going to than I did about a man who was clearly pleading for some kind of listening ear. I was that guy that cared more about my reputation of being on time then I did about someone who was bleeding all over the subway.
I don’t quite know what to do with that feeling. I guess two things come to mind;
The first is that I will no longer be all high and mighty judgemental towards the religious men who walked on by the guy who was bleeding and beaten up in the parable of the good Samaritan. I can just as easily be either of those guys. The guy I was talking to was metaphorically bleeding all over the subway.
The second is that I will try and be more mindful of what is most important. Yes I really did want to see my friends who are a part of my little contemplation group. We have had to meet via zoom for so long and I was excited to see people in real life. So yes I am giving myself a little bit of a break on this one to be sure. But really, I still think that spending time with this guy who was crying out for help was the more important choice to make if I were thinking straight.
So from now on, I hope though I suspect I will blow it at times, I will pay more attention to my surroundings and try and weigh out what is most important. My friends would totally understand of course. They’re really good people.
But if they didn’t, Que sera sera I guess