A dark green Mercedes-Benz slowly came to a complete stop on a busy intersection as the light turned red. It was a cold day. On the tan leather back seat of the car sat a fifteen or sixteen year old young man. Riding alone, his eyes had been fixed on the headrest in front of him, but as the car reached the light he turned his eyes toward the window. Within seconds another young man about his same age approached the car selling something. He held a wooden box full of bubble gum tightly secured around his neck with a weathered piece of yarn. The young man wore old, tattered clothes. He stopped by the car window offering what he had to the young man sitting inside the car. Their eyes met for two or three seconds before the young man in the car shook his head signaling he was not interested. The other young man continued his desperate journey down the side of the road selling an insignificant product for a negligible price in order to make a buck or two that day.
The young man in the car wore new colorful clothes, a long-sleeved button down shirt, and khaki pants. His black shoes had been shined that very same morning by someone at his grandmother’s house. He wore a black leather belt. As the chauffeur of the dark green Mercedes-Benz stepped on the gas after the red light turned green a question entered the young man’s mind: “why is he out there, and I am here?” The young man could not immediately reach a satisfactory answer. As his ride continued down long avenues filled with other cars and more street vendors, he could not unsee his own face in the face of the young man selling bubble gum.This experience and the initial question that arose in his mind began a process that changed his perspective on life. More questions followed: was it luck that placed him in the car? Was it an unmerited benefit he inherited from his ancestors? Was it providence or the muses of fate? Was it hard work? Over time the young man realized he had done nothing to deserve the seat in the dark green car – he easily could have been the young man on the street battling the cold to fill his pockets with a few coins. Not only was riding a Mercedes-Benz an unmerited benefit, everything he had was not merited. His life could have easily been different. Nothing within his reach had allowed him to choose this particular lifestyle in the same manner that the man on the street had done nothing to deserve the life he was destined to lead.
The man in the car placed himself in the shoes of the other man selling gum along the curve of the busy street not because he felt guilty, but because he understood that every human person has a story to tell and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. He concretely felt the responsibility to love and to reach out to the other without judgement. Life experiences such as this one present difficult questions – answering these with a loving, merciful, and kind heart is always an appropriate response. An unexpected gaze through the car window led to a deeper understanding of the other – an unmerited grace.
Picture is not mine, taken with permission.