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.”
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.