I want to be compassionate and helpful to those around me. I want to reach out to those poor and troubled people that need help. I want to teach my children to help those in need and care for the people around us. However I cannot ignore the needs of myself or of my family. I am no longer indestructible, there are consequences of my absence, people who depend on me.
The debate on what to do and what not to do constantly plays out in my mind.
Today we saw a hitchhiker. In suburbia. It was an odd site. We live on a fairly busy (for suburbia) street and our street ends at a Metra station. So I guess the thought of a hitchhiker makes sense, they may or may not have just gotten off a train. I haven't seen someone with their thumb out hoping for a ride in years, and never in the manicured lawns of suburbia. However this was the second time this week. A few days prior at preschool pick-up someone was trying to get into the church to ask for a ride, and then started asking the parents picking up their kids. Maybe it's a sign of the tough economic times, or maybe it was just a coincidence.
Our hitchhiker, was an an old man, time shown on his face and gait, at least a couple days worth of stubble dotted his face. He clutched a portfolio with papers sticking out to his chest.
What to do?
Should I pick him up?
Call the police?
The compassionate heart of mine wanted to pull over, see if he was alright, if I could help. Maybe he was lost and confused. My grandfather had Alzheimer's and would wonder, disappear. What if he has a family desperately looking for him. My heart was breaking thinking of the possibilities.
Then I looked in my rear-view mirror and my mind changed. The mom in me couldn't stop. I was on my way to preschool drop off. What if he was crazy? A pedophile? A rapist? What if he took my wallet and car, even if he didn't hurt us what would that do to my son? I hate to be so dark and cynical, maybe I watch too much "Law and Order", but I'm the only mom my children have. It would be tragic if something happened to me, whether I was trying to do good or not.
So I kept driving. I kept looking back in my mirror, hoping I would see someone pull over.
I wanted to stop, I wanted to help, but should I? Could I?
I still don't know what was right. There is no easy answer, it's a constant debate when I am confronted with these situations. How can I show compassion and help? I wish I could be like Mother Theresa. I am reading about her in this amazing book, "My Life with Saints". Mother Theresa believed that touching or helping the poor and damaged of society was touching Christ; reaching out and helping them was reaching out and helping Him. I wish I could see that light, and spread that love, but the nagging darkness gets to me. I'm not Mother Theresa, I'm a mom.
I have been thinking about that man all day. I really hope he wasn't someones lost grandpa. I hope he ran into someone who is more Mother Theresa than me.
Do you debate your compassion or do you keep driving? I want to help. I just struggle with how I can help while still keeping mine, and my family's safety first. Would I even be debating this if it wasn't a grandfatherly looking old man? Probably not. When the man approached us in the church parking lot, he was younger and I didn't give it a second thought. I ushered my kids into the car. Was he in any less need? My history with a confused grandfather made me immediately feel for one hitchhiker over the other, but they both could have been equally dangerous.
In this world we no longer know what to expect. I wish I could put on rose colored glasses and pretend everyone is kind and helpful. I wish I could treat everyone around me like Mother Theresa did. I can't. I could blame the media, the culture. They normalize these feelings. Show us on the news every-night that the seemingly benign and normal person next door can do horrible things. But it's nothing new, there was always that possibility. I am sure that possibility was around every corner of Calcutta yet Mother Theresa wasn't scared. Maybe we don't have the village that so many of us wish we had because we are all to busy being scared, assuming the worst instead of offering a compassionate hand. Or maybe not. Maybe the world is a much different place now.
I have no answers, no neat and tidy way to close this up. I want to reach out to those in need, but I guess for right now I need to focus on those riding in the back child-seats. They depend on me for everything. I will have to find other ways to reach out and show compassion without picking up people off the street.
This post was originally published on Chicago Moms blog on May 13, 2010
Photo-credit: Wikimedia Commons