“But you’re even nice to the dishwasher…”

A Bronx mugger steps out of an idea, into wonder:

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.

He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,’” Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

Read all about the meal that followed, here. Or listen to it here.

NPR did not make this connection, but I will:

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. (Luke 29)

Because he did this, because he remained open to possibilities and did not simply cower in fear, there was a genuine exchange between human beings, and then a a breaking of bread, and with that came a realization, and even a kind of surrendering act.

Sort of like the Mass.

At the very least, there was wonder — which is the means by which we learn and grow.

“But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.”

Yes. Everyone counts. Everyone matters. A profoundly life-affirming, dignity-imparting concept. I wonder if I would have the guts, or the grace and trust, to do what he did.

Mr. Diaz ends with this: “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:31-36)

NPR does not ask, and Mr. Diaz does not say, whether the Gospel message was at all responsible for this brief exchange. But in Advent, on this Feastday of Our Lady of Guadalupe, what a potent reminder from Mr. Diaz that we have these instructions — counter-cultural, counter-intuitive and radical instructions — by which we may be set free, and help to free others, from the shackles of fear, envy, anger, resentment — even doubt — if only we take them to heart, let them become ingrained within our being, and then stay opened.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Ellen

    In Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, Harry (a detective in Los Angeles) lives by this code: “everyone counts, or no one counts”.

    I think it’s a good one.

  • Gerry

    Wonderful, but what if the mugger played basketball at Xavier?

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    I certainly don’t want to Hi Jack your post so I’m simply going to say:
    Keep UP The Good Words and Work Anchoress.

    God Bless

    What do you mean by that Victor?

    Oh Nothing at all Anchoress! :)


  • anniebird

    When I read this story, I thought of the quote (author unknown, though I think it’s attributed to St. Francis) “preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” What a LOVELY story: inspiring, hopeful, powerful – it should be shared far and wide.

  • clarice

    Nice story, but not of universal application, I am sorry to say. During the depression a robber entered the store owned by my grandfather and his brother in law, my great uncle, a very warm hearted man. The bandana couldn’t hide the robber’s identity and my great uncle called out his name and said,”I know times are tough and you are desperate but don’t do this, you don’t want to be a thief. If you need help, I’ll give it to you” The man shot him dead.

    [No, of course it hasn't got a universal application. I just heard that a very nice man in my son's neighborhood -- owner of a gas station -- was robbed and badly beaten when two men forced their way into his office after hours. Some people cannot be dealt with. But I do like holding out for these moments of grace...-admin]

  • Robert

    The universal application is this: most of us are not going to be mugged, but most of us are going to be hurt by a friend, a spouse, a co-worker, with an unkind or ill-timed word or action. We can get angry and retaliate in kind, or we can turn the other cheek and return kindness instead. In these vast majority of cases, there is little, if any, danger of serious harm, as in a mugging, just the swallowing of the desire to get even, or to have the last word.

    [well done - admin]

  • Wolfwood

    I’m not so sure. There’s a line between allowing yourself to be made a victim and in collaborating, and even aiding, evil. If the mugger had broken down and said “My girlfriend needs $500 for an abortion, and this is only $300,” would we have cheered the victim if he’d offered to hit up his ATM for the other $500? I think Mr. Diaz’s heart was in the right place, but he was a little misguided.

  • Ellen

    Robert is right, as I discovered recently when one of my siblings said some VERY hurtful things to me. I could seethe, hate him forever, and stew in my own wounded feelings, or I could forgive and move on. I chose the latter. We are still talking to each other and I have forgiven him.