Ed, my neighbor next door, says I was just being paranoid when I didn’t stop for a hitchhiker who was trying to catch a ride the other day. It was raining a steady cold rain and I slowed down and considered stopping for the poor wet guy, but I went by him and felt guilty.
“You should know it usually isn’t strangers who murder you, but friends and family members,” Ed informed me.
“To my way of thinking, that really isn’t such a comforting thought or much of a reason to give a stranger a ride,” I told Ed. I have heard that people have more to fear from the people they know rather than strangers they don’t know, but I wasn’t going to agree with Ed.
“An old preacher like you shouldn’t worry. The stranger would have been the victim if you got around to preaching at him. He could have died of boredom or been forced to jump out of your moving car to escape you,” Ed elaborated with a lot of enthusiasm.
“Like you would know Ed,” I confronted him. “You have never come out to hear me when I preach, so either do so or admit you don’t have a shred of evidence to stand on. Show up when I’m preaching or dry up,” I offered.
Ed informed me that he would lay odds of a hundred to one that he will never be at church to hear me. He claims he is allergic to church – like when he got married and fainted twice there. I have heard of someone in the bridal party fainting once, but not twice. I asked Ruby if Ed was exaggerating his fainting, but she confirmed it was the absolute truth. “Fainted twice, but I married him anyway,” Ruby said. The way she said it discouraged me from asking anything more about it.
I asked Ed if he would have picked up the hitchhiker in the rain. He answered a resounding no, because he would not have a stranger getting his truck seat wet. I drove on by the poor guy even though a wet car seat would not upset me. Much as I feel sorry for those hitchhikers needing a ride, I have this cold-hearted reaction and I don’t pick them up. It is selfishness on my part, my anxiousness that I might be putting myself at risk if I stop. It leaves me feeling guilty because I may be car-less and walking sometime and hoping someone would give me a ride.
I suggested to Ed that my sense of compassion is pretty faulty. I think real compassion reflects the compassion of Jesus. For my own satisfaction, I show compassion to those I know and like. I guess my compassion mostly stops at who I’m comfortable with or know. Compassion needs to be more about the real needs of others and not so much about me.
Jesus said it this way, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives or your rich neighbors. If you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.” Compassion can be given to the people who we know and like as they need it, but the danger is that our compassion may end there.