On paper it’s hard to imagine someone walking by without a response. In the early evening the stairs up and out of the East Broadway stop on the F line are not terribly long, difficult, or hard-assuming you are healthy. Yet for one Hassidic father it was just that – far longer than he could possibly do without resting, more difficult than he had anticipated, and far harder than imagined. So this thin, middle aged, man struggled up the stairs. I was the only person in sight. As I approached the different ways I could respond flashed through my mind. Whatever my options were, and he was clearly no threat to anyone in his state, I pushed on by without a word.
I wish I had done something, anything, different. I wish I could write a story this morning of new friendship, a Samaritan coming to a stranger’s aid, or a father making it home safely to his waiting family. I found myself behaving in a way I could never imagine and yet the image of a man struggling to making the landing, grasping for breath, and struggling to hold onto his shopping bags haunts the shadows of my mind in the bright morning sun. The odds that I will ever have a chance to make amends for this lost opportunity are virtually non-existent.
When things lie undone, unfinished, or in disarray one easily finds one’s emotions in a state of uncertainty. Should I ignore reality and get on with things? Should I pause, reflect, and understand? Is there any guidance to this mess of my creation?
Whatever the right response, it will contain a key in letting emotions have their due. Don’t ignore reality. Don’t push people out of the picture. Take it in and “wail, ships of Tarshish, your strong seaports all in ruins! When the ships returned from Cyprus, they saw the destruction.” (Isaiah 23.1) See reality. Live in the present. Appreciate how important hope, mercy, and compassion are.
Life isn’t over. Opportunities will be here, for you and me. Today will be different.
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