Her face said enough. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know she needed help as she sat there in traffic with the hazard lights on and her head mostly buried in the steering wheel. She looked like she’d been there for a while… waiting.
I wondered what was wrong and if there was actually anything I could do to help. Did she hit something? Had she been told to stay put? There was a dent in the front fender, but no glass or parts or another vehicle or anything to suggest an accident. Must be something else…
As I pulled into a nearby parking lot and reached for my door handle, some doubts flashed across my mind. Mind your own business. Go home, this is your lunch break. You’re going to feel pretty dumb when she says she doesn’t need help. What if her problem is too big for you? You’re going to look stupid…
The last thought almost kept me in my nice dry vehicle. Do you have any idea how ridiculous it looks to see a 5’5″ scrawny, nerd-looking guy pushing a Suburban across one of the busiest intersections in town? I didn’t really want to look ridiculous. I was on my way home for lunch. She probably didn’t really need my help. Surely she’d called someone already and help was on the way, right?
In the few seconds it took me to have all those thoughts and more poke holes in my altruistic cranium, I kept seeing her face as I’d driven by (she was headed the opposite direction): dejected, defeated, helpless, embarrassed… I recognized so many emotions I’ve wrestled with myself. But still, I almost didn’t help. I almost backed out of the parking spot and headed home.
I’m sure I did look pretty pathetic pushing the SUV out of traffic and into a safer spot. But once she was out of harm’s way, a whole new face appeared: grateful, hopeful, encouraged… Someone had actually stopped to help. I almost missed seeing that face.
As I caught my breath on the way home, it occurred to me that probably 100 cars or more passed by that intersection while the hazard lights flashed. Able bodied high school kids on their way back to class… workers on their lunch break… underemployed people with nothing much going on at all… Why didn’t anyone stop?
I wondered how many of Jesus’ followers “passed by on the other side of the road” today? I’m not patting myself of the back at all, because I know how close I was to doing nothing either, but Church, we can do better. With the grace we’ve been given, we can extend ourselves to people who need help of all kinds.
God, let us see with your eyes…