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Being A Good Samaritan Sometimes Hurts
I was raised to believe that I am my brother's keeper. Having attended eight years of Catholic schooling, it wasn't hard to believe that we are supposed to love thy neighbor as thyself. After all, what is a neighbor. The word "neigh" means close and that means anyone with whom you have dealings or even meet on the street. The following, although based on actual happenings, is for the most part fictional. Read on with an open heart and open mind as to the occurrences of the Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall of one year which is just the amount of time it took to impact my generosity and shake my beliefs to the core.
The Beginning: A Cold Winter Day
It was a crisp winter day, as I made my way across the public square between the buildings to make a deposit at the bank. As always, I had my eye trained to watch out for my surroundings because I was carrying cash and the streets aren't always safe.
There he was again, the homeless man who had approached me several times asking for a handout. "Just a dollar so I can get a cup of coffee," he would plead. Every time I shook my head no I would feel the pangs of my upbringing and would wonder if this were Christ testing me.
Miracles never cease, he didn't even approach me today. I started to return to the office but something made me stop and look at the man. I had just a dollar in my pocket that I had intended to use to buy a donut on the way back to the office. Quickly, I reached into my pocket and handed it to him.
He smiled and thanked me. The hand he reached out to take the money was discolored from the cold and something in those hands touched my heart because I knew how it felt to be cold just from waiting on buses to go to and from work.
One day I made it a point to take with me a pair of gloves that had been my husband's who was no longer living and gave them to Bob. He thanked me but I noticed that he still walked the streets barehanded. When I asked him why he didn't wear the gloves he told me a friend was watching them for him at the newsstand. I deduced from that explanation that Bob had sold them or traded them for money.
After that I found out that the man's name was Bob from one of the security guards who tried to stop him one day as he talked to me on my regular run to the bank. He called the man by name and I learned that he was a regular in the area but the guards kept him from pestering the workers.
Being outgoing I was on speaking terms with the guard and told him that I had been talking with Bob on a regular basis. Later I told the guard that Bob didn't bother me unless I talked to him first. About once a week, I would take an extra dollar with me to the bank and hand it to Bob as I returned to the office.
Spring and Summer:
Over the ensuing months, I continued to talk with Bob and every so often hand him an offering. He was always polite and thanked me profusely.
One morning on my way to work, I ran into Bob sweeping out at the door of one of the bars on the square. I stopped and congratulated him on his employment. He told me it was temporary just because the owner was too lazy to do the job himself. Bob told me the job would end once the owner decided to do it again himself.
Bob was right because I saw him again standing around in the area. He never seemed to associate with other obvious homeless people. He was normally in the area and I figured that was because the Catholic Church was around the corner where there was a soup kitchen every day just before noon.
Fall: Where Did Bob Go?
When Fall came around, I noticed that I hadn't seen Bob for a few weeks. I was somewhat concerned but figured that he had either heard from his mother and was off the streets or he had moved on to another location.
Bob always promised to pay me back when his mother sent him some money but I told him, "give it to someone else when you get back on your feet."
I knew he would cross over the bridge to the North Side because I saw him one day walking over there from the bus I was riding. I found out later that there was a shelter over there that the homeless used when they had panhandled enough money for a bed and that the "Y" would serve coffee and donuts for breakfast.
When it was approaching winter again, I asked the guard if he knew where Bob had gone. To my shock, Bob had been knifed for the paltry few dollars he had that day on his way to the shelter.
From that day on, I always felt it was partly my fault that this human being had been killed. I had given him money and someone else took it from him as he took Bob's life.
Yes, we are our brother's keeper but it hurts when the person we help comes to a tragic end.