The old man stood on the side of the road shaking a cane at passing cars. Cars traveled at top speed and not one of them stopped. One swerved a bit to avoid hitting the man, and as I passed on the opposite side of the road, I could see his confusion. I worked with enough dementia patients in the nursing home to recognize the look of it on a man’s face, even when racing down the road at 50 miles per hour. I was rushing from one seemingly important thing to the next, my daughter in the passenger seat next to me, and I actually considered driving by. Scratch that. I did drive by, afraid to cross traffic myself to reach him, but I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit and made a U-turn at the light a few hundred feet down the road.
In the minute it took me to turn around, the old man walked straight into traffic. When I pulled up, another woman had stopped her car right smack in the middle of the road, with the driver’s door flung open, and walked the man to safety. In that moment, I regretted my decision to drive past and turn around. A single moment in time, a lapse in judgement–it can change everything.
When I arrived, the other woman left the man with me, moved her car from the center of the road, and called 911. While waiting, the man tried to climb in my car, and as I attempted to keep him from falling, I noticed a woman in a home adjacent to the highway, waving frantically at me. She shook her head no, and waved her arms in a silent attempt to keep me moving. When I looked at her, the lyrics “how the face changes when the heart knows fear” rose to the surface of my mind. She knew fear, and moments later I understood why.
My daughter had a front row seat to the police pulling up and boxing us in from the front and from behind. Three officers got out of the cars, and on seeing them, the woman in the house slammed her window shut and watched from the shadows. The old man, one foot in my car, and one on the pavement, turned to face them. The officers helped him to the edge of the grassy shoulder, and told me to get going. “He’s going to get hit someday.” one officer said. “And it would be better if he did, to be honest.”
“He beat the crap out of her, ” he said, motioning towards the woman hiding behind the window. “Six times I’ve been called here after he beat her. He’s volatile and violent. Go on and get in your car, we’ve got it from here, ma’am.”
We were perfectly safe, but as I drove home I felt shaken. I wasn’t afraid of the man, but afraid that I will become someone for whom busy-ness or apathy or fear keep me from making the right decisions. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel convenient or even safe. It was a good reminder for me and a teaching moment for my daughter. We stop, we help, we hope for the best outcomes when the options seem dire at best. But we choose the life of the Spirit over the life of convenience and comfort. We choose the spirit even when our flesh is led by fear.
It’s not convenient to help others in need on their schedule, not our own. It’s not cheap. It costs us something, either in time or money or pride. I want to be someone who will always stop in the middle of the road and fling the door open to walk others to safety. I’m not there yet, but God willing, someday I will be.
We’re seeing horrific reports all over the news of what feels like a hopeless situation. Let’s not lose hope even when we feel like we’re losing heart. I don’t know what my part is in the current refugee crisis, and I don’t know what your part is either. But would you prayerfully consider how we can help? Here are a few options for those of us who feel lost at sea with the overwhelming need of those trying to cross to safer borders.