I like reading books – especially when inspiring ones. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say “reading.” In my long
commutes, I prefer listening to books on tape.

My wife says that taped books shouldn’t count as reading – goes to show you the convoluted logic of
a schoolteacher.

Recently, while refueling my car, I was “reading” a John Gresham book called “Street Lawyer” about a homeless man who invades the offices of a high-priced law firm because he’s upset over being evicted in the dead of winter.

I was getting to the part where a police sharpshooter was aiming to end the occupation, when a homeless woman approached me for help.

” Sir,” she began, “my children need money for food.”

” God, I know this routine,” I prayed silently. “Not her routine – your routine.

” First, you pour on the guilt with a seemingly innocuous book and then you send the test. Fine, I’m

” Ma’am, I’d be glad to help. Let’s go buy some groceries.”

I wasn’t about to give her money. You know what they say; “She’d just spend it on drugs.”

” Well,” she said, “my children are over at Taco Town.”

” Why don’t you walk over to Taco Town and I’ll meet you when I finish here.”

” Right,” she said, pivoting in the direction of the street. ” I’ve heard that before!”

Well, I thought indignantly, I too have heard “that” before.

But when I noticed that she was walking toward Taco Town, I decided to drive to the restaurant. I was
determined to pass this timely test so that God would use me as the gold standard for the future exams of others.

This Good Samaritan trip might set me back a twenty as well as some valuable story-swapping time in the cafeteria, but I’d have the best story.

I parked at Taco Town and walked in and around the restaurant. Nada.

” See, God, what’d I tell you? She wanted drug money.”

I had a clean conscience and a full wallet. Does life get any better?

Then it hit me – that still small voice. I’d rather endure a megaphone. I’ve got earplugs for that.

” Is it your job to be the truth detector, or is it your job to meet the needs? Or do you even know what her need was?” the voice asked. Ugh, I felt the beginnings of indigestion.

The disciples – Peter and John – knew immediately what the need was of a crippled homeless man who had solicited them for funds at the Gate of the Temple. Not having any “silver or gold,” the disciples called upon God to allow the man to walk – which he did.

But the greatest miracle was yet to come as the man” entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

He wasn’t just “leaping” because he was healed, he was leaping because he had been invited into the Temple as an equal.

How might that woman walked away from me that day had I treated her request differently, as if she was an equal? Instead of being the Money Police and making sure she spent it on what she said she would, what if I had just given her some cash and wished her well?

I could have even taken it a step further and asked her how much she needed to feed herself and her kids. Imagine that – “How much do you need, Ma’am?”

I had intended to help, but in my enthusiasm to do the Right Thing in the right way, I lost my chance. And I lost a greater opportunity to treat another human person which the healing power of respect – and that may have allowed her to leap a little through the day, maybe over to Taco Town, maybe not – but either way, as an equal member of God’s children.