One hot summer evening a number of years years ago I was parked in front of a shopping mall wiping off my car with a chamois. I had just come from a car wash and was putting in time waiting for my banker wife to get out of work.
Coming my way from across the parking lot was what society would consider a bum. From his appearance one could readily conclude that he was homeless. There are times when you feel tolerant and receptive but there are other times when you just don't want to be bothered. This was one of the "don't want to be bothered" times.
"I hope he doesn't ask me for money," I thought. He didn't. He instead sat on the curb in front of a bus stop some 100 feet away . After a few minutes he spoke. "That's a very nice car," he said, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. Looks can sometimes be misleading, I thought to myself.
I nodded "thanks," and continued busily wiping off my car.
The man sat quietly watching me as I worked. The expected plea for money never came. As the silence between us widened something inside me said, "Ask him if he needs help." I was sure that he would say yes, but I gave in to my inner voice anyway.
"Do you need any help?" I asked. He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. On this occasion I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. The three words coming from between blistered lips and brown broken teeth, however, shook me.
"Don't we all?" he said.
Certainly, I've needed help in my life, maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I've needed help. I related totally to those three words, "Don't we all?"
Without hesitation and asking no further questions, I reached in my wallet and gave the guy not only enough money for bus fare but enough to get a warm meal too. (My wife wanted a bite to eat before we went home a few minutes later. I didn't have enough cash, so I put the food tab on a credit card.)
Those three little words still ring true for me all these year later. No matter how much we have, no matter what we have accomplished in life, we all need help at various times in our lives. Then again, we may well be strapped for money and have more than our share of problems in life, but we can still give help -- even if it's just a compliment or a word of encouragement to someone who needs it.
There are certain to be times when you come in contact with someone that appears to have it all but chances are they are waiting on you to give them what they don't have -- a different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos, that only you through a torn world and an open heart can see and give.
Unlike the man in the mall parking lot, a person does not necessarily have to be materially destitute to need our help. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to the hidden needs of others. As I say, personal needs go hand-in-hand with life...Don't we all welcome a kind word or a helping hand at one time or another?
It feels good to both give and to receive! That's the nice part of it.