Monday, February 09, 2009

At the 77th St. subway station

I saw something very touching last night.
Or maybe heartbreaking is a better word.

As I was going down into the chilly subway station to wait for the train, a man was standing on the platform close to the wall.

From my quick peripheral observation (which I sadly have mastered since living here) I could tell he was, or looked, homeless or very poor.

The assumption seemed to be confirmed when I heard him mumbling something to people as they passed by him.

To each person he mumbled the same phrase.

I couldn't tell what he was saying, which probably meant (I thought) he was drunk or a little crazy and wasn't saying anything intelligible at all.

This assessment happened in about 2 seconds time as I approached him, seeing the person in front of me pass on by, not even glancing his way.

I passed by, not even glancing his way.

I felt a pang of guilt. (Guilt or the Holy Spirit convicting me?)

I heard a man's voice behind me say kindly,
"What is it you need, Sir?"

I turned around and saw the whole scene.

The man who didn't pass by was a business-looking man... clean cut, long nice dress coat.

Again, the man mumbled his line.
The man who didn't pass by asked him to repeat himself because he couldn't understand.

Finally he heard, and I heard, what the man what saying...
"Would you mind doing me a small favor?"

"Sure, what can I do for you?"
(He was just as uncomfortable as the rest of us would have been in the same situation. You could tell he was painfully aware of all the others on the platform staring at the scene, and aware of the potential hazards in stopping... but he stayed)

"Sir, would you mind zipping up my jacket? I'm crippled and can't do it on my own."

Immediately his handicap became obvious... a shriveled hand and forearm stuck up against his chest.

The man who didn't pass by proceeded to move in close... as close as you would have to be to zip someone's jacket zipper.
That's a pretty intimate process... way beyond the boundaries of personal space... it's something parents do for their small children who are not yet able.
He fumbled for a few seconds with the zipper on the man's dirty maroon jacket, and proceeded to zip it up. There they stood, face to face.

The crippled man was obviously touched, saying, "Thank you so much, Sir, thank you so much."

The train pulled up.
I stepped in the same car as the man who didn't pass by, and I could hear the crippled man yell again, "Thank you so much, Sir!"

As we pulled away from the station, we saw through the window the crippled man still standing where he had been.

I looked over and saw (what looked like) tears in the eyes of the man who didn't pass by.
I said to him, "That was really amazing what you just did."

He looked down sadly, shook his head, and sincerely said,"No, it really wasn't. I could have done so much more."

Yes, I guess he could have.
But he did so much more than any of the rest of us were willing to do.

And in his small gesture he gave something invaluable back to this man... his humanity.

He said to him, "Yes, I hear you speaking, and I care enough to stop... and to be patient and listen to what you have to say, even when it is so uncomfortable, and to put my fears aside in order to meet a need you have... in order to LOVE you. And I do this because it is what Jesus has done for me, and what He has done for you."

This beautiful, heartbreaking picture reminded me of what Jesus said about loving.

I praise the Lord today for people like this man- my husband- and pray that I would love Jesus so much that I would not pass by.