Posted by: Court | July 18, 2008

The light was red

Every day at 5:30 I begin the long process of getting home. It usually takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes, although it can sometimes be longer. I realize that some people commute much longer than this, and to them I say…you’re crazy! I can’t imagine being in the car any longer than I already am each day. After sitting at my desk for 9 hours (we hardly ever go out to lunch anymore), the last thing I want to do is go sit in my car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, driving a stick-shift. But alas, bills must be paid.

I think it really wouldn’t be so bad except that, from what I understand, the road that takes me to the highway has been under construction since long before I started my job. It is showing s-l-o-w signs of progress, but a road that should take me all of 5-ish minutes maximum to travel, takes more like 10+ minutes most days.

This usually puts me in a rotten mood on the drive home. Today I had to gas up my car as I was about to get to the sticky intersection of this particular road. I pulled into the gas station and waited patiently as the pump took extra-long to push out a half-day’s-pay-worth of gas into my Bug. I dwelled on this fact as I tried out my new super-secret route behind the gas station – thereby avoiding an extra 5+ minutes of careful navigation through the aforementioned sticky intersection.

I was congratulating myself on this small victory when I noticed a car in one of the lanes that was supposed to go straight – with its blinker on. There’s only one turn lane. This particular intersection is horrific. People are always driving in the turn lane, passing all of us who wait in line, then cutting off the person at the front of the line so they don’t have to wait. Like I said – sticky.

So it was nothing new when I saw this car perform a slight variation – drive past everyone in the turn lane, as if they were going straight, then cut off someone in the middle of the turn. I huffed and puffed for a minute – it’s something I need to work on, this frustration stemming from other drivers – but relaxed a bit as I listened to KLTY and worked my way towards the highway.

As I was almost to the light, I saw a homeless man holding out a hat. I drove past him, and felt immediate guilt. I have had a handful of coins in my cupholder for several weeks, ready for the opportunity to give. But for the past several weeks, the homeless people I’ve seen have all been too far back from the corner, where I’m usually waiting for the light to turn green. Yes, I could and probably should stop my car regardless of the status of the light, but I am afraid of the wrath of the others braving the traffic, within mere yards of the highway. 

But God gave me a second chance – as I was two cars back, waiting at the red light, another homeless man rounded the corner. I saw him stop at the car in front of me, but didn’t get any money. I quickly collected my handful of change and rolled down my window as he approached my car. I dropped the coins into his baseball cap and smiled at him. “God bless you,” I said. He smiled and gave me a thumbs up. He had a great smile. I could tell he wasn’t quite all there, but he was still trucking on.

He moved on to the truck behind me and I watched in my side mirror. My heart was warmed as I saw a hand reach out from the window and drop more money into the man’s cap. I hardly ever see anyone give money to homeless people, so I’d like to think that it was some kind of chain reaction. You know, like that commercial where the man pulls the woman out of the street because he saw someone else do a good thing, who saw someone else do a good thing, etc. It keeps getting passed on.

The light turned green and I worked my way towards the highway. I was a much happier driver on the way home – not getting frustrated with slow drivers, people cutting me off or any other traffic infraction.

I took the time to admire the beauty that God has created. I thanked Him for my blessings. Even though I sucked nearly half of today’s pay into the gas that mostly serves to get me to and from the office, I am grateful to have the degree that got me the job that allows me to continue paying bills and live a comfortable life.

*Edit*

I know some people have reservations about giving money to homeless people because they aren’t sure where the money will go. I used to have the same feelings. I didn’t want to fuel any drug or alcohol problems. But on a church retreat about a year-and-a-half ago, this very topic was broached in our small group. I don’t remember how we arrived at the subject, but I am so grateful that we did.

One woman in our group said she used to feel apprehensive about giving money to homeless people, but one of the team leaders told her that it’s not our business what the homeless person does with the money. It is, however, our business to give to those who are less fortunate than we are. What the person does with the money is between the person and God.

I hope this point of view helps you as it has helped me.

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