Let us do good when we have the opportunity. Galatians 6:10
The late John Ed Pearce, who has been called Kentucky’s best newspaper writer, opened one of his histories with these words, “The history of Kentucky is the story of missed opportunity.”
I remembered his words recently on my way home from Kroger after waiting impatiently in line for people to get through the self-check stations. It was a bitter cold walk to Kroger and I really wanted to get started on my walk back home.
One young man a couple of people in front of me had two items, but was spending a lot of time searching the seemingly bottomless pockets of his tattered coat. Finally, he turned around and asked if I, by any chance, had a dollar. I answered instantly, “I use a credit card!”
He looked away. He spent more time trying to back-out of the electronic process, finally leaving the checkout station and disappearing back into the shelves to return, I suppose, the item he could not afford.
By the time I realized how disgusted I was with myself, he was gone. When I got home, it weighed heavily on my heart.
“Why didn’t you just use your credit card to pay for all his stuff along with your own?”
It was a unique opportunity to show love and compassion and I missed it. It was a chance to set a good example for the others in line who didn’t step up to help either. I was ashamed.
What was it? A habitual response to too many years of being hit up by street people when I was working downtown? I, all of a sudden, felt like a cold-hearted old man. I was not thinking, but reacting out of some awful habit. It still bothers me — hopefully enough never to allow such an opportunity to be generous to pass me by again. He only had a couple of small items. I could have saved him both the embarrassment of having to ask for a dollar, as well as the embarrassment of being turned down.
I was reminded, as well, of the words of the Confiteor in which we say we are sorry for what we have done and what we have failed to do.
No, I didn’t call him a loser or yell at him for being so slow in line. I just did nothing. I did nothing when I could have so easily done some good.
Is that not where most of us sin? We are not evil people. We just fail to seize opportunities to do good! Some say that is why there is so much evil in the world — not because we do so many bad things, but because we fail to do so many good things.
For my penance, on my last trip over to Kroger I bought some Girl Scout cookies and let the girls selling them at the door keep the cookies.
Father J. Ronald Knott