The other day, while on our way to a day at the beach, we drove through New Haven and at a traffic light, saw a man with a sign saying he was Homeless and Hungry.
I said “Oh, dear. This makes me so uncomfortable.”
and my son asked “Why?”
“I don’t know. Seeing him makes me feel sad and upset and helpless.”
“Because I feel that I should give him some money, but I feel frightened.”
I really didn’t have a good answer… So instead I said “Get my wallet.” And as we passed by, I opened my window and handed the man some money. Which he gratefully accepted with a smile and a blessing.
Where does the fear come from? Why should seeing someone in desperate straits make me feel anything but sadness or compassion? Why would I feel afraid of offering him some of my abundance?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But I do know that my son’s persistent questioning helped me move out of fear into compassion. Out of immobility into action, at least a small action. Afterward I felt so much better than I would have if I had rolled up my window, locked my car door, and pretended that the homeless and hungry man didn’t exist.