Another Bible story has been rolling around my head for the last few weeks. In the 17th chapter of Luke Jesus encounters 10 lepers, they ask to be healed, they are told to go see the priest (they are healed on their way), one of the 10 realizes that they were healed and returns to thank Jesus.
Moral of the story: give thanks to God.
But there is more. I have been thinking about how Jesus gave these men an unconditional gift. He did not judge the men. He did not ask for loyalty, discipleship, or fame. He gave. He could have healed the single man he knew would show gratitude, but he chose to give to all that asked.
Fast forward to NYC 2015.
I want to be a better person. In NYC there are plenty of opportunities to give, but I quickly shut them down. In fact, I have perfected the snub and can keep the beggar at bay with just a glance. I judge a person before they even open their mouth to ask for help. I see the cup and know that the jingling coins will fuel an addiction and not a recovery. I navigate this city knowing that anyone who asks me for help will not find me a fool.
While I secretly like the curmudgeon I've become, I miss being a nice guy. In an attempt to emulate the master teacher, I decided to be a good giver and share with those who ask for help. I may not have a lot to give, but I certainly have enough to share. A few coins from my dresser does not constitute a fortune, but I thought it was a good start.
My goal was to keep 4 quarters in my pocket and give them to the first person who asks for help each day. With renewed zest for life, I set out in hopes of finding my inner nice guy. It turns out that I wasn't asked for help as much as I thought I was. The first day no one asked me for help. The "regulars" I saw on a daily basis weren't in their regular places. Turns out that the the same thing happened on the second day too. I was really confused. I had a dollar in my pocket and no one was asking for it! Finally on the third day I saw a man holding a cup by the entrance to the subway. As I approached him, I reached into my pocket. When I was pulling the dollar out, I noticed that the man was sitting on a new jazzy chair and smoking a cigarette. No way. Not going to happen. I was giving this money to someone who needs it, not another hustler... I put the dollar back in my pocket and marched down the stairs.
During the ride home I had a long talk with myself, and I came to this conclusion: If I refuse to help the people that don't deserve it, how will I be ready to help the people who do?
It is not my place to judge. It is not my role to decide who is worthy of help. All I can do is try to be a better person today than I was yesterday. This change starts by giving to the nine.