I Got 99 Problems

Warning: This post contains some graphic content. If you are easily offended by sexual references or racial slurs, you may want to skip this post. I hope you won’t, because it may change the way you view people around you.

A clearly autistic man preaches the Gospel to everyone walking by, addressing pedestrians with both love and judgment. He ignores the derisive sneers of his mobile congregation.

A woman tries to sell me aspirin for a dollar a pill, then sits on the bench and starts masturbating.

A businesswoman with her children gives three dollars to a war veteran, and has it thrown back at her with an angry retort: “I defended your freedom! That’s all you’ve got?”

A black man in a suit scoots away from another black man who appears homeless and gets accosted: “You think you’re better than me? You think I’m the ni***r? Sucka, you’re just a ni***r in a white man’s suit!”

Welcome to my first day in the world of Phoenix public transportation.

As I watched life happening around me, I was struck by this fact: everyone has problems. We all have to deal with the anger and injustice of a world busted by pain and sin.

The preacher has some mental issues, but also has a bigger heart than I do on most days. I envy his passion for evangelism and wish I had his boldness, while also feeling sorry for him because of the rejection he is seeing.

The woman with the aspirin needs money and relationship with other human beings, but got only judgmental looks from everyone around her. Including me.

The war veteran feels under-appreciated for the great service he gave to my country, and at least on this day allowed his anger to steal a small blessing in his life.

The businesswoman has to explain to her children that sometimes generosity is not rewarded. I overhear her mumbled explanation, and watch her kids stare at the veteran in confusion.

The black businessman may or may not feel like he’s better than the apparently homeless man, but gets yelled at either way. I observe him unsuccessfully attempt to defuse the situation, then shake his head and walk away.

The other black man feels slighted, as though he was not enough in the eyes of another man…and probably not for the first time. Indignation strangles his heart and he goes on the offensive. In the end, he only looks foolish.

Most of these problems exceed my own struggles with my seizures, or my daughter’s health concerns. I couldn’t help but feel my heart torn to shreds with the struggles of those surrounding me.

I had the chance to step into their problems. To be a source of hope. To give of myself. To make a difference in someone else’s life.

So what did I do, you ask? Who did I serve? Whose life did I invest in?

I did nothing but watch. I served nobody. I invested in my own life by writing a blog post.

I felt too insignificant to help. I can’t cure mental illness. Buying the aspirin would accomplish nothing. I don’t know how to show a war veteran the proper appreciation. I don’t think a tall white man will help an argument between two black man.¬†

So I sat still and did nothing.

The only good news in this story is that the Phoenix public transportation system will be there for me again tomorrow.

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