Yesterday was LONG. Good, but long. I awoke at three to be on the road by four, drove five hours, installed a projection system, drove back home and fell into bed half an hour into today. It was a great day. I enjoyed every hour. I was just awake for more of it than usual, I guess.
When I stepped out onto the back porch this morning I wrinkled my nose at the rain. It’s spring, so don’t get me wrong; we need it, should expect it, and be thankful for it – so I am. It’s just that I’m not fond of black high-gloss pavement in the dark of early morning. The rain dims the lines on the highway, messes with my depth perception, and the clear-blur-clear-blur-clear-blur of windshield wipers adds to it all.
I did my best, and played it safe on the way to work. “Lord, I’m thankful I didn’t have to drive in this on the way home, I’d have been a mess!” Approaching the last major interchange on my route I saw brake lights up ahead—everybody’s. It’s not unusual for a little back-up here, but today it was a quarter of a mile sooner than usual. Creeping along, everybody on the brakes, I saw what appeared to be taillights deep in the valley of the median between a couple of the on-ramps. As I came closer I could see they were not level. One headlight was shining into the grass and weeds, but the other I couldn’t see. When I saw a figure climbing the hill toward the road I heard myself say “I’m stopping.”
Flashers on, and careful to stop before the guard rail began so I could get down there if I needed to, I approached the stranger in distress.
“Is that your vehicle?”
“Are you OK?”
“I think so.” He seemed a little disoriented.
“Are there others in the car?”
“No, just me.”
The young Hispanic male stuffed his hands deeper in the pocket of his hoodie sweatshirt and winced. “Was slowing down for this,” he motioned toward the procession of brake lights and windshield wipers behind us, “the car behind me hit me and I started sliding. Went right down in there – was nothing I could do. I hit a tree down there, that’s what stopped me. He didn’t stop or nothin’. I have no idea who it was or what kind of car it was.”
I looked past him at the hundreds of cars going by and remembered the story Jesus told about donkeys, robbers, inns, Levites and Samaritans. This was my pop-quiz; my chance to apply the moral of His story to cars, hit-and-run drivers, 9-1-1, young Hispanics and a middle aged white guy. “Have you called for help?”
“No. I don’t even know where I am.”
I knew he looked a little disoriented; I know how that feels after a mishap. “There’s no one else in your car?”
“No, just me.”
“C’mon then, let’s get in my car, we’ll call for help” Safe inside, I dialed 9-1-1 on my cell phone. “I’ll start the conversation, then hand the phone to you,” I informed him. He volunteered that he was wearing his seatbelt when the accident happened. “Smart,” I thought. When the dispatcher answered I began to describe our location. “You’re at Coldspring, correct?” How did he know? Then I remembered technology in front of him shows my cell phone’s location on a map. They know exactly where we are! I didn’t have to read him the Coldspring Road sign I could see on the other side of four lanes of brake lights. “I’ve got you,” said the voice in my ear, “and we have three squads on the way. Do you need an ambulance?” I looked at the stranger sitting next to me and parroted the question. He shook his head no “I’m okay.” I relayed his words to the dispatcher, closed my phone, and we began our wait. It wasn’t but a minute.
I looked more carefully at where we were and it occurred to me that fifteen months ago I was on the shoulder of this same highway, only southbound, right over there. I could see the place under the streetlights across the way to my left. Uncanny. Mine was the car and I was the driver in distress that day. I noticed my passenger flexing and rubbing his left hand. “You OK?”
“Yeah, think I hurt my hand just a little.”
“Did your airbag go off when you hit the tree?”
“Let me guess, your hand —the hurt one— was it on the top of the steering wheel like this?” I put my left hand on the top of the steering wheel as I finished my question.
“Yeah. I always drive like that.”
“Just a guess, but when the air bag went off it may have smashed your hand against the windshield. Happened to me a little over a year ago. I was southbound, just over there, at the beginning of a snowstorm when I ….” The first squad pulled up behind us at that point and God delivered him from the rest of my story. In a couple of minutes the officer thanked me for stopping and told me I didn’t have to stay.
I pulled away and merged into the four lines of slow-moving traffic. I thought maybe I’d be more put-out at all the drivers that didn’t stop this morning. Instead, gratitude welled up inside me.
“Lord, thanks for safety in all of yesterday’s miles – and this morning. Thanks that that young man is OK. Thanks for having me be the one to stop today. It felt good to be the good Samaritan in a way. Thank you for the people who have stopped to see if I’m all right when I’ve been the one in need. Oh, and Lord? Thanks again for not asking me to drive in this rain on the way home last night. That could have been me, I came right by here about midnight. But then, you already know that, don’t You?”