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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2008 Donald E. Lindman
640 words


By: Don Lindman

Poverty is different when it has a face.  I discovered that early on a bitterly cold February evening when I was one of four pastors who left a restaurant on Chicago’s northside and headed back to a convention we were attending near O’Hare Airport.  Our car, a compact barely big enough for the four of us, was parked two blocks away.

We turned up our collars to fight the wind, hunched our shoulders to protect our faces, talked fast and walked even faster—anything to get out of the cold and back to the warmth of the conference center.  Former Nixon aide Chuck Colson, of Prison Fellowship, was to be the evening speaker, and we had just enough time to get back and get seated.

As we passed one building I caught a passing glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.  She was a fairly young woman, wearing a knit cap and covered by a thin blanket, lying huddled in a doorway.  I don’t know if my colleagues even saw her. 

It’s amazing how fast one’s brain works in a crisis.  My first thought was that we should stop and help her.  But it wasn’t my car, and I knew the other men were anxious to get back to the conference. 

And if we did stop, what could we do?  Assuming there was room enough to somehow squeeze her into the car, would she go?  Would she be willing to trust her life to four male strangers?

Maybe we could get her a room for the night, but where?  I didn’t know of any hotels around there.  Take her back to our hotel at the airport?  Maybe we could help her for one night, but what about the next night, and the next, and the next? 

All I encountered were roadblocks instead of answers.  Dealing with poverty seemed so clear-cut when I could face it on a worldwide scale, but when it appeared in the form of one person lying huddled in a doorway, my solutions seemed irrelevant. 

By that time we had reached the street corner, my moment of decision had passed, and we walked off into the night. 

I have never been able to read the biblical story of the Good Samaritan in the same way as I did before that experience.  I better understand the priest and the Levite, both clergy, who passed by the beaten, bloody stranger lying on the side of the road.  They probably had meetings to attend.

I understand the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help him, much less than I once thought I did.  He faced the risks, closed his Palm Pilot, and did what he could.

After telling the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

A llistener answered, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

Over the years I have given fairly generously to poverty causes both here and overseas.  I have been very concerned about the welfare of homeless people.  But on a bitter Chicago winter evening a few years ago, four pastors had a chance to “go and do likewise.”

We didn’t.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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