Tag Archives: helping others

One Bad Apple

bad-apple

I check mail at the post office about twice a week, and I don’t think too much about opening the door and waiting for someone to come through, but it is something I do very often; sometimes unconsciously.  I notice people begin to hurry up when I have the door open for a while as if they didn’t expect this act of kindness.  Each time I have the door open for someone, I get all kinds of complements from people. They will say things like, “you are such a gentleman” or just a simple “thank you”.  I don’t expect people to show their appreciation, but it is always nice to hear people appreciate a simple gesture such as opening a door for a stranger.

I have also had moments when someone I opened the door for came zooming in without saying a word of thanks. Some even have had an attitude of “you better open that door for me because I am better than you”. When that happens, it makes me want to stop opening doors for people. And then these thoughts go through my mind: Maybe I should have let go of the door right in their face instead. Who do they think they are? Why should I be the servant of all? Maybe I should not be nice to people anymore since everyone else seems to be so self-centered and unappreciative. A single incident like this could possibly ruin the evening and affect not only me but my action towards others.

I am sure all of us have felt like we are the only ones who are making an effort to be nice or help others. We sometimes go out of our way to do an act of kindness to strangers only to be disappointed by the response we get back. We have heard many stories of good Samaritans getting hurt even killed because they helped someone who appeared to be in need.

I am reminded of an incident that had happened late December of last year. A South Carolinian young lady gave a ride to a stranger who seemed harmless enough. Little did she know that this harmless looking man was a dangerous criminal who would change her life forever. She was attacked and assaulted. Her vehicle was totaled. Her medical bills have piled up to over $250,000, and she is facing paralysis. With no medical insurance, she has been moved from one hospital to another.

I can’t imagine what she must be going through in her mind as she spends time in rehab, having to re-learn how to do everything; going through the terrors of the attack. She is probably blaming herself for being naïve and for being kind enough to help a total stranger. She will never open that door again. She will never trust a stranger again. Her innocence was taken. All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the rest.

We live in a world where people feel entitled to things; they feel there is no need to be thankful for things they have, even if someone went out of their way to help. I know of family members who have been burned time and time again for their kindness, taken advantage of, and even had property stolen by the very same family members they have helped. Sometimes it could be ungrateful kids who seem to complain about everything we do to provide for them. We buy them clothes, and they turn around and complain because they are not brand names.

My wife and I had an old car we wanted to get rid of. We were looking at selling it for $2500 and using the money for the school in Zambia. A family we knew was going through some tough times financially. The husband had expressed to me they needed money quickly or they would have their utilities shut down. I wrestled with the idea of giving them the car verses selling it to help the school. I told them the car needed a new battery and a few minor fixes that wouldn’t cost a lot. They could sell it as is, or fix it and then sell it and use the money to pay bills. A week later when I signed the car title over and handed the keys to the couple, the first thing that came out of the husband’s mouth was, “I was hoping it was drivable so we could sell it right away.” I was dumbfounded by his comment. I was tempted to tell him to give me back the title and keys, but I restrained myself. They went on to sell the car and never said a word of thanks; not even a thank you card in the mail. We felt used, manipulated, and unappreciated, and that the school in Zambia could have used the money more than the couple, but we never regretted our act of kindness towards them.

We never know how people will respond; whether they will appreciate our generosity or brush it off as nothing. People can be self-centered and can totally disregard the feelings of others to get what they want.  Should we stoop so low to their level and stop helping others? One of the most difficult things in life is to forget when our act of kindness has been violated or worse yet, having to suffer because we opened our door to help others. How long can we keep being kind or keep giving when people we help seem to step on our toes?

As a Christian, I am called to do good to all people, even those who would hurt me. The world tells us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The problem with this kind of mentality is that there is no end to the cycle of revenge. If you burn my house, I burn yours. If you treat me badly, then I will do the same in return. There are bad apples out there, but there is also good ones. Do not let the bad apples spoil the good ones.

Have you had an incident happen to you that made you think twice about showing kindness to others? How did you handle it?

Standing Up For What Is Right

stand-up-for-what-is-right

On one of my trips back home to Zambia, I had gone into the city to buy some African wood carvings and paintings for friends and for my apartment back in the United States. After I was done shopping, I made my way to a bus station. A man, a little older than me, was heading in the same direction a few feet in front of me.  There was a group of young boys between seven and thirteen ahead us, begging on the street. They were totally ignored by people passing by. One of the boys went to the man and asked for money to buy food. The boy looked dirty and hungry. The man grabbed the boy’s head and pushed him to the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I reached in my pocket for some change and handed it to the boy and continued to walk behind the man. I felt the urge to say something to him, but did not know how he would respond.

We walked a few blocks without any incident. My anger was growing. I had to say something. He stopped at one of the street vendor’s shops to buy himself a snack, and I gathered enough courage to talk to him. I politely asked him why he pushed the boy away. He responded, “Which boy?” His question made me even angrier. I couldn’t believe he had already forgotten what he did a few blocks away, or maybe he was trying to play dumb. I reminded him where the incident had occurred of which his response was, “Those Street kids are a problem; we had helped a few at our church, and one of them ended up stealing church property. These kids choose to be on the street, and they are nothing but trouble.”  I tried to plead the boy’s case. He really needed help but got shoved in the face instead, which was unnecessary. He told me he didn’t want to talk about it anymore and left.  I watched him walk away and disappear in the crowd. And this guy was supposed to a Christian?

I bought some food and made my way back to the spot where I saw the boys, but could not find them. I waited a few minutes to see if they would come back, but they had already moved on. What if those boys were angels in disguised?

The incident inspired me to write a song called “Reach Out” about a little boy and little girl who were pushed away by the very people who are supposed to help them out. Jesus taught a lot on taking care of the little children; the most vulnerable and defenseless; the least of these.  The church is not only a place of worship, but a place where the sick, the helpless, the hurt, the disillusioned, the fatherless should find refuge and healing. It’s a place where everyone should feel welcomed and loved, and should not feel like an outcast.

Unfortunately the church has become more of a country club where if you don’t share the same political views or wear certain clothes or look a certain way, you are not welcomed. It has become a place of hypocrisy and condemnation. We care more about the color of carpet than our neighbor next door.

We are faced with situations where we see injustice, corruption, abuse, and hatred, but are too fearful to stand up for what is right because of what others might think. For instance, a little church out of Topeka, Kansas became infamous for going to funerals of servicemen to protest for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The forty member church believed the death of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan was the result of America’s tolerance for homosexuality. The church’s mission was to show up at funerals unannounced picketing, holding hate signs.  I can’t imagine how families of the deceased felt seeing hateful signs that said: “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.  God Hates America. Jews Killed Jesus. God Hates Jews. God Hates Fags. Fags Doom Nations.” Wow! A time of mourning for a loved one turned into a nightmare. No one stood up to counter their hatred until 2000 bikers created a human barrier to stop their plans to picket at a staff sergeant’s funeral in Hinesville, Georgia.  In recent years, they have been met with counter protest which has derailed their hateful mission.

I have always cringed when people of faith spread hatred in the name of God. As a Christian, churches like Westboro or any other supposedly religious organizations who have preached hatred does not represent my religious belief and what I know about Jesus’ teaching. The teachings of Jesus were centered on love: For God so loved the world; love your neighbor as you love yourself; love your enemies; do not judge, and the list goes on.  Anything that is preached contrary to what Jesus said is anti-Christ.  If we do not stand up to condemn injustice and hatred towards people who do not have the same belief or political values as we do; people who have been bullied to the point of committing suicide because of their lifestyle; people who have been abused and taken advantage of, we are simply endorsing the hatred, the abuse, the bullying, and the injustice.

Unfortunately, the media focuses more on stories that encourage division and hatred, but there are people who stand up for justice and speak out in the face of evil. A picture surfaced on the internet of people picketing at a high school holding signs with hateful and derogatory words.  Some motorists were even honking showing their support as they passed by. No one stood up against their hatred until a young boy wrote a small sign with words, “God Does Not Hate Anyone” and stood in front of one of the signs. The picture of the boy was all over the internet. It took a lot of courage to do that. Standing up for what is right can be costly at times. It can mean rejection, being ridiculed, and even risking our  lives. People like Abraham Lincoln  and Martin Luther King Jr. did stand up for what was right and paid the ultimate price.

Are we willing to stand up for what is right? Going outside of our comfort zone to help our neighbor?  What we say or do can make a difference. If we all loved our neighbor, the world would be a better place.