A recent encounter has been much on my mind. Due to the type of vehicle that I drive, I carry it to the dealership for all repairs. The only problem with this arrangement is that the dealership is 100 miles away, in Dallas. But hey, this is Texas. What's 100 miles? Anyway, a friend and co-worker was driving me there to pick up the vehicle, and I had promised him a steak dinner afterwards in appreciation.
Things went off without a hitch. I paid for the insanely expensive repairs with a swipe of the credit card. We then located a nearby steak house where we both ate very well. I am generally not one to eat much steak, but this seemed the generous and expansive thing to do. Anyway, the meal was delicious. Another swipe of the credit card paid the tab. As I was headed towards home, I pulled in to fill up the tank--again, all made possible with the magical card.
As I was pumping gas, a young man approached me. My defenses automatically went up. He wanted to know if he could ask me something. I mumbled something about not being from there. He then asked if I had any spare change I could give him. Again, I tried not to look at him and mumbled something about having only $5 on me and that it had to get me back home--100 miles away. (This part is true. I have taken off across 5 states with only $3 and some plastic in my pocket.) He turned and started walking off. I knew I had just blown it. I called out after him and said for him to wait and let me see what I could do. I opened my wallet and saw that I actually had $6 on me--a 5 and a 1. I pulled out the dollar and gave it to him. He thanked me and walked off.
If you look at such encounters as something of a test (and I definitely do), then I realized that I had just failed miserably. Almost any alternative would have been preferable to what I actually chose to do. I could have given him the $6 (it's not like there are no ATMs around). I could have given him the $5 instead of the $1. I could have been gracious in giving him the $1--which I was not. I could have said something--"God bless you"--anything. I just gave him the $1 and cut things off as soon as possible.
As I drove off, the chance encounter stayed with me, as did the words of Jesus from Matthew 25:31-46..that whole "least of these" thing. So, there is still a lot of work to do here. Maybe next time. Lord have mercy.