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THE MALL INCIDENT

A few months later I was subpoenaed to court….

I have always had a problem. I seem to want to help people. If someone’s gas cap is dangling from their car; I want to let them know. Or if someone drops something I try to chase them down to give it back to them. I have this overwhelming compulsion to help. However, quite often it gets me into trouble. I’ve had people become angry with me because they didn’t particularly want to be helped; or because I was following them, they thought I might have a different intention in mind.

One day I was walking with my wife in the mall in the second story of a well-known department store. I heard a shout behind me and turned to see a man running from another man in my direction.

The man who was fleeing pointed at the person chasing him and shouted with what appeared to be a slurred voice to everyone within earshot, “He is trying to kill me. Someone, please help.” When he shouted this, the man chasing him didn’t stop, but took a detour around a group of changing rooms in order to try to anticipate where the man might run next so he could head him off.

The person being chased came to a halt about twenty feet in front of me, stood with his back to me, looked around for his pursuer and then tucked what looked like a few twenty dollar bills in between some vacuum cleaner boxes.

When the man in pursuit came into view from around the changing rooms, he pointed at the man in front of me and said loudly, “Stop him. He stole my money.”

There were two or three lady clerks in the area and several customers, both male and female. But none of them moved to help.

My wife was about five feet away from me and she could see the consternation on my face and said to me, “Chris, don’t do it. Stay out of it. This could be dangerous.” She knew me well.

But the drive in me was too strong. I did a speedy analysis of the man being pursued standing in front of me. He was thin, unkempt, perhaps not very strong and maybe somewhat impaired by drugs or alcohol. I also quickly pondered the money he attempted to hide and concluded he was probably in the wrong.

Ignoring my wife’s warnings, I lunged forward, wrapped my arms tightly around the man in front of me securing his arms to his body, and squeezed for dear life intending not to let him go no matter how hard he fought.

But he didn’t fight me at all. He started thanking me because he felt my action caused his pursuer to back off. I stood there holding the man tight for all of five minutes while store security was notified and took the time necessary to arrive at the scene. They took the two men involved in the incident to the mall security office, took my name and number, asked what I had heard and seen and let me go on my way.

My wife said to me as we walked away, “What am I going to do with you? What if that guy had pulled out a knife?”

I said, “Hmm. I never thought of that.”

A few months later I was subpoenaed to court and asked before a judge to give my version of the story. Come to find out, my assessment of the account was correct. The man being pursued had stolen the other man’s money and was found guilty of the crime. However, he thanked me again for intervening, even though he was going to have to pay for it, because he was truly afraid that the other man was going to hurt him. Go figure.

It turned out, my act of foolish intervention helped the victim of the crime by deterring him from hurting the man he was chasing. It helped the perpetrator of the crime by protecting him from being beaten. It also helped the justice system secure the criminal and offer a compelling testimony about the money. None of that was in my mind. I was just reacting as I normally would.

Certainly, my mind goes to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. I’d like to think that my inclination to help was like the Good Samaritan’s, though I am probably not that pure.

But I wonder how many lives we encounter every day who are truly in danger—danger from life’s struggles and sin’s cruelties. Really, they are all around us and we could see them if we would simply open our eyes and hearts to them. And I believe Jesus wants us to see them. If we could just be a little more alert to the plights and pain of people, perhaps we could make more of a difference in their lives. And if we could have a heart to right some wrongs, or intervene in some crises, or pray for some in trouble; maybe we could help people get a glimpse of Jesus. He is their true source of hope

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