Falsely I have imagined myself to be that Good Samaritan by the deeds I do by handing out some cash or food to the homeless or helping individuals with troubled minds and hearts. It has felt good being able to give something to someone else in need and never expecting anything in return.
I have chanted on occasion my mantra of “con los pobres quiero echar mi suerte” I will put my future with the poor. Although I am neither poor nor am I rich I remember my roots and my struggle to make a living and to move from farmworker to community activist.
Over the years I have seen students, workers, the unemployed, gang members, and others respond by helping me in my projects and often just thanking me or giving me moral support. This support was not expected but it was most inspiring to receive it.
Then on February 3rd, I was involved in a most difficult but the most amazing event.
It was early morning, I had stopped at my favorite gas station in Claremont, California on my way from Redlands to a meeting in Hawthorne which is just below Los Angeles. This is a good gas station because it has clean bathrooms that are always available. Many gas stations since COVID have closed their bathrooms. Plus, there is a Mcdonald’s and Starbucks there also.
I was on my way to the restroom as I was approaching the side door to the building when I felt my left foot slipping on a slick piece of trash. probably a food wrapper. The next thing I know is my face is bouncing off the cement. My first thought is wanting to know how serious this fall would be. I did not have the chance to break the fall with my hands.
Dazed and bleeding from multiple cuts on my face. it scared me to see so much of my blood making puddles right in front of me.
Then I felt two firm hands lifting by my shoulders and onto my knees with this man asking about my condition and how she might help.
He said that he wanted to make sure I was okay.
Soon he was off to the gasoline pump islands to get paper towels to stem the flow of the blood. He asked if he should call 911 and I said no. Probably that was a mistake. He made several trips to get more towels for blood flowing from my face.
He let me know he was not allowed in the gas station so he could not get the towels wet for me. Giving me the impression that he was homeless.
With his strong arms and hands, he helped me get upright. I was limp and my legs were useless. I thanked him and gave him the few dollars in my pocket and stumbled into the gas station bathroom where I saw the serious damage to my face and tried to clean it up as best I could. Much later I would find bruising and pain to both knees and my ribs. I looked like I had been beaten up in a gang fight or by the police.
I was still dazed when I got out of the bathroom and could not find the man who helped me. I don’t remember his face, ethnicity, or anything about him and I forgot to give him my name and phone number. To this day I cannot find his face in my memory banks, but I know it is there somewhere. I went back two days later in search of this man who had helped me. And one day I hope to find him.
No one else came to check on me at this busy gas station. Perhaps they thought I might have been on drugs or alcohol or perhaps just another homeless man lying there bleeding. Later I would notice that no blood had gotten on my shirt that day.
I got in my van and thought about the biblical tale of the Good Samaritan. Who was this man who had helped me? who did not judge me, a man who just wanted to be of assistance. He was just a man with a good heart. There are many more out there who may not be wearing the finest of clothes but who have a good heart and will do the right thing and help others.
Later I went to an Urgent Care Clinic and then to an Emergency Hospital Room in Redlands. I had done serious damage to my face and body. We all have a chance every day to perform an act of kindness for someone somewhere.