Lessons learned along the congested highway of life
Nevada Appeal Editor
If you’ve ever driven into Carson City from the south during rush hour on a snowy day, you probably already know that those conditions mean: a) you’ll probably be late for work, and b) you’ll have plenty of time to observe people talking on cell phones and primping in their rear-view mirrors, occasionally at the same time.
As cars and trucks creep along at a walking pace, it’s also one of the few times when bumper stickers earn their place in the greater public discourse.
While all I can contribute to the group-reading experience is the name of my Ford dealership, other people have been much more generous, contributing such gems as, “Isn’t a smoking area in a restaurant like a peeing area in a swimming pool?” “Quit honking, I’m on the phone” (the driver actually was on the phone), and “If you’re gonna burn our flag, wrap yourself in it first.”
Hardly great literature, I’ll grant you, but good mood-adjusters for the long day ahead.
On Tuesday, idling along Highway 395 near Mica Drive, I came across one that held my attention a little longer. It was this, or something very similar, “If going to church makes you a Christian, does going to the garage make you a car?”
And that got me thinking about a story I’d read months ago about a homeless man sitting outside a church door in a small Wisconsin town. I recalled reading the story several times, and finally saved it so I could read it again later.
And after I finally pulled in to work on Tuesday, that’s what I did.
According to the article, it was a cold Sunday morning last November, and the dirty, unkempt man sat hunched over begging for coins as the congregation walked in for Sunday services.
Only it was not a homeless man outside Christ Episcopal Church in Delavan. It was the disguised priest of the church, Father William Myrick.
What did the parishioners do? Most walked by. Some went around to the side entrance so they could avoid him.
A few gave money. He ended up with $23 from the two morning services. Six people invited him in from the cold.
Imagine everyone’s surprise, possibly shame, when the beggar walked into the church and sat in priest’s chair near the altar, then took off his disguise.
According to the story, It was a soul-searching time for the congregation.
Said one: “Your attitude about another human being was thrown in your face. It certainly created an awareness. In fact, I think it should be repeated at churches everywhere. It’s enlightening to know yourself, how you really react to those situations.”
And for the priest, it was a reminder about the narrow dividing line between self-sufficiency and homelessness.
“I know when I was on the steps out there I was getting angry seeing my friends pass me by,” Myrick said.
When I read that story months ago on a newspaper’s Web site, I could form in my head the vision of walking up those church steps, my family and neighbors around me.
I could see the homeless man sitting there. But I couldn’t honestly say what I would have done next.
I’d like to think that, before reading the article, I would have been the one in the crowd to resist the temptation to judge, to stop and reach for my wallet, or invite the man inside. And maybe I would have.
After reading it, I’m pretty sure that’s what I would do.
But it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder every now and then, even if it’s as simple as a bumper in a rush-hour commute.
— Barry Ginter is the editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at email@example.com or 881-1221.