A woman in a small Yorkshire town bought a homeless man breakfast at McDonalds. She watched him in the restaurant for several minutes as he sat alone and ate a small package of ketchup. She brought him the breakfast meal and placed it in front of him. It was a lovely gesture, but she soon discovered that he wasn’t a homeless man.
As she placed his meal down, an employee came along with another meal and said to the man, “Sorry for the wait.” Turns out he was a regular customer, although perhaps he looked a little disheveled in the morning rush. The woman was embarrassed and quickly left without speaking to him.
What went wrong? She had compassion – which is great. We need more people with compassion. Better than that, she acted on her compassion. She used her own money and went to the counter and purchased a meal. But there was something missing: the human connection. She forgot to ask him what he needed. She acted on her assumptions.
There’s an amazing account in Mark 10 where a blind man, Bartimaeus, is brought to Jesus. Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) You would think that Jesus would already know what the man needed. Indeed, Bartimaeus asks for his sight. Yet Jesus respected this man by asking a very simple question. Rather than assuming to know the man’s need, he inquired as to how he could help.
Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do is ask another person what they really need or how we can help. Our assumptions can be, and often are, incorrect. Rather than turning away and doing nothing, we can speak up and ask a simple question. It might save us from being embarrassed and it offers dignity to those who need it. You might be amazed at what you discover.