One of the things that I have learned about myself over the years is that I can be quite gullible.

I’m not talking about being politically naive, or about getting hoodwinked by some huge financial scheme. I retain a healthy dose of skepticism about those things.

No, I mean on a day-to-day basis, whenever I’m interacting with those around me. Usually my guard is down and I too easily – too eagerly – accept most of what’s told me, all at face value. I tend to assume that the other person is not trying to mislead me or set a trap. My training over 35 years as a New York City lawyer takes a willing back seat.

And sometimes I get burned.

Most days, I find myself confronted by many of NYC’s homeless. It’s a growing problem here. Mostly, I ignore the way too many calls for help. But sometimes, one plea is aimed directly into my heart.

I’m not really sure why.

Maybe it’s the unavoidable eye contact with a particular person and then a quick sizing up that they are harmless and sincere (which may well not be accurate). Whatever it is, I engage.

Heck, I’m a sucker for a good hard luck story.

I realize that any number of people with whom I engage are outright liars. And that whatever gets transferred between us may be spent on more things harmful.

But as I tell my kids, I’d rather wear my gullibility openly than don the mentality of a cynic. I find that way too dark. I’d despise that world – and the depression that would surely follow.

I don’t much like the dark.

And who knows when the tables might next turn?

I mean, there are no guarantees.

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy – Thomas Merton


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