But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.
-James 1:22 (NET)

I remember the day very clearly. It was August 22, 2010 and my family and I were on the T (the Boston subway) on our way to church. At the last stop before Cambridge, he got on the train


Nobody met his eye. Including me. He was making a spectacle of himself, and we told ourselves we didn’t want to embarrass him. More likely, we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves.

“You need to help him,” that little voice in my head said. Sometimes I don’t like that little voice very much. I ignored it.

“You need to help him,” it insisted.

Ignoring wasn’t working, so I tried reasoning. “Hey, I’m on this train with my wife and small son. If I try to help this guy, who is obviously unstable, and it doesn’t end well, they could get hurt. I can’t let that happen. Besides, I don’t even have any money on me.”

“You need to help him.”

I switched to bargaining. “Okay. We’re on our way to church. How about at the next stop, I approach him and invite him there. If he comes with us, I’m sure the folks at church will get him the help he needs.”

Speaking of the next stop, just then the train slowed and came to a halt. As the doors opened, I made as if to stand.

I was too late. With a final scream of agony, he ran out the door, down the platform, and out of sight.

I don’t know what his story was before he got on that train. I don’t know what his story became after he got off. Maybe he got the help he needed. Maybe he wasn’t really looking for help in the first place.

But what haunts me to this day is the possibility that maybe, during the time I spent ignoring, reasoning, and bargaining, the opportunity for his life to turnaround was lost. And I pray that someone else responded to the call of God that I ignored.