22 March 2011

No Hitch-Hikers

I often feel very guilty driving by hitch-hikers on the road, knowing that they probably just need help and that I may be in a position to help them.  But I've read far too many stories about good Samaritans becoming victims of the very people that they've stopped to help, and I've picked up too many hitch-hikers who have made me very uncomfortable to be okay still with the idea of putting a complete stranger in a seat just a foot away from me for a very long time, closed off in a small compartment moving at high speeds.  I've had to make the decision not to pick up hitch-hikers anymore, as a matter of strict policy in my life.

Sometimes on our journey we have to take care of ourselves.  We have to step back and look at our lives and ask ourselves what are the acceptable risks, and which aren't acceptable.  We have to make sometimes difficult decisions about what we can and can't do, what we should and shouldn't do.  Deciding not to pick up hitch-hikers may seem like a reflection of a lack of compassion, or even inconsiderate or rude, but if we start thinking that way it's important that we ask ourselves what the potential risk of picking up a stranger can be, and whether that risk is worth taking.  For me now, it's simply a question of making a decision--I've decided that the activity is too dangerous for me and that I'm not going to do it any more.

Our journeys continue on and on as we live, and sometimes our paths cross those of others.  And I'm more than willing to help strangers when I find myself with an opportunity to do so.  But I am not obligated to help every stranger in every way.  I have the right--even the responsibility--to decide just how I'm willing to help others, and how I'm not.  The decision simply is mine, and it's important that I make it and stick by it for as long as I feel that the decision is the right one in my life.

A friend of mine once asked me to lie for him to a prospective employer.  I couldn't do it, and I lost a friend, who claimed that I had "betrayed" him.  In my mind, though, he was the one who had betrayed our friendship and the trust that was there.

What kinds of things do you do that make you feel uncomfortable?  Do you truly need to do them?  And if you're doing them to help someone else, is it truly necessary that you help this particular someone?  Sometimes the best decisions that we make are the ones that keep us out of trouble by excluding possibilities from our lives, just as I won't ever be attacked by a stranger in my own car because I won't be allowing complete strangers to sit in it with me as I drive.  You can make your own decisions without needing to explain them away to anyone at all.

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