He was a menacing looking man approaching my car as I waited for the light to turn to green. Probably a panhandler, I thought, but not holding the usual "Will work for Mad Dog 20/20" sign. I instinctively looked to make sure my door was locked. It wasn’t. He was still 15 feet away. Plenty of time to lock it, but I didn’t want to insult him by letting him realize his approach was causing me to lock my door. I care about the feelings of the down-and-out. I really do. I casually rested my elbow on the lock. Hey, am I cool or what?
When he got about 5 feet from the car he flew into a rage. "Hey, Buddy, you shoulda locked it before you left home!" He was shaking his finger violently at me, his face red, his neck veins distended--so much for my furtive efforts to preserve his dignity.
I felt awful as I sat there under his scathing gaze. The stoplight was punishing me by not changing. Maybe he was full of rage because he lacked the forum to explain to me that he was a man who once had parents who loved him, a wife and two sweet little girls he hadn’t seen in 20 years, a job he had lost because a conniving colleague had lied about him to his boss.
Maybe the anger fumed within him because he couldn’t tell me how a cold and indifferent society had dealt him nothing but unfairness no matter what he did. Maybe he felt God was exacting some hyperbolic judgment on him for some unknown sin. I thought of all these things and more. I thought this man probably intended me no harm and I would never know the reason for his hidden pain. Or maybe he was mad because I had thwarted his plan to bash my head in and take my $29 watch.