By Juan L. Mercado

(HOW DOES one tell when night has ended? And do words really make a difference? To find out read the stories below — JLM)

A priest posed this question to his students: “How can you tell when the night has ended and day is dawning?”

One student answered: “When you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a goat or a cow. “No,” said the priest. So, another replied: “When you see a far away tree in the distance and tell whether it’s acacia or mango.” Again the priest said: “No.” So all spoke up: “Well, then, when can we tell that the night has ended?” And the priest replied: “It is when you can look into the face of another and see that person is your brother or sister. If you can’t do this, then no matter what time it is, it is still night.”

Now, here are five words with two meanings: (1) Vulnerable (vul-ne-ra-bel) adj. Female… Fully opening up one’s self emotionally to another. Male… Playing football without a cup. (2) Communication (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n. Female… The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one’s partner. Male… Leaving a note before partying with the boys.
(3) Commitment (ko-mit-ment) n. Female… A desire to get married and raise a family. Male … Trying not to hit on other women while out with this one. (4) Entertainment (en-ter-tayn-ment) n. Female… A good movie, concert, play or book. Male… Anything that can be done while drinking beer. (5) Remote Control: (ri-moht kon-trohl) n. Female… A device for changing from one tv channel to another. Male… A device for scanning through all 75 channels every 5 minutes.

There are three words in life that, once gone, never come back,” says another. These are: (1) Time (2) Opportunity; and (3) Words” Indeed, “not even the fastest horse can overtake the word spoken in haste,” the Chinese say… “Three things in life that can destroy a person,” my friend went on. What? (1) Anger; (2) Pride; and ( 3) Unforgiveness.

And the three things most valuable in life he says are: (1) Love; (2) Family and Friends; and (3) Kindness. In the play “The Taming of a Shrew,” Shakespeare wrote: “This is a way to kill a wife/with kindness.”

And the next story, titled “The Bum” is also about three words. “This is a real story. It happened to me,” writes this reporter from a small American town newspaper. “Everyone respects and helps the millionaire, the famous, the boss, those with beauty and brains. What about the bum on the street?

I was parked in front of the house cleaning my jeep. I was waiting for someone. Coming my way, from across the street, was what society would consider a bum. From the looks of him, he had no car, no home, no clean clothes — and no money.

Now, here are times when you feel generous. But there are other times that you just don’t want to be bothered. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered times.” “I hope he doesn’t ask me for any money,” I thought.

He did not. Instead, he came and sat on the wall in front of the bus stop. After a few minutes he spoke. “That’s a nice jeep,” he said. He was ragged but he had an air of dignity around him.

“Thanks,” I mumbled without turning my head. And I continued cleaning the jeep. He sat there quietly as I worked. The expected plea for money never came.

The silence between us widened. Then, something inside me said: “Ask him if he needs any help.” I was sure that he would say “yes.” But for once I held true to the inner voice. “Do you need any help?” I asked.

We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. Not from “bums.” I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand.

He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget “Don’t we all?”

There I was, feeling high and mighty, successful and important, above a bum in the street, until those three words hit me like a twelve gauge shotgun. “Don’t we all? “

I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep. But I needed help. I reached in my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare, but enough to get food and shelter for the day. Those three little words still ring true: “Don’t we all?”

No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help. Even if it’s just a compliment, you can give that.

You never know when you may see someone who appears to have it all. 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 can see.

Maybe the man was just a homeless stranger wandering the streets. Maybe he was more than that. Maybe he was sent by a Power that is great and wise, to minister to souls too comfortable in themselves.

Maybe God looked down, called an angel, dressed him like a bum, then said : ” Go minister to that man cleaning the jeep. That man needs help.

“Don’t we all?

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