Driving west on US-166 on a very foggy Sunday morning, we saw a man walking on the shoulder, carrying a large red plastic gas can. At first I figured we didn’t have time to stop and help him because it would make us late for church. Pretty quickly the absurdity of that notion struck me. “We don’t have time to help some stranger because we’re in a hurry to go worship the One who died for him? The One who healed on the Sabbath and taught us the example of ‘The Good Samaritan?'” That struck me as at least amusing and maybe downright ludicrous.
So, we pulled over and offered the guy a ride. He looked to be in his mid-to-late twenties and had the lean look of someone who smoked and might be abusing himself in other ways as well. He was clearly grateful that we had stopped, though. It was about three miles to the gas station over by I-35, a distance covered by car in one-twentieth of the time as by walking. That was still enough time for him to tell us he and his girlfriend had been over at the casino on Saturday night, ran out of gas on their way back to Wichita and had spent the night in the old red pickup truck we’d passed about a mile before we saw him. Randa and I didn’t understand why their truck was four miles east when Wichita was due north on 35 but didn’t say anything about it.
When we got to the station and he got out of the car, he admitted he didn’t have any money. I used my debit card and filled the can. “Thank you so much, I really appreciate this.”
As I was putting the can in the trunk, I asked him if he was sure that gas was all he needed. “I’m really hungry,” he responded, looking down at the ground.
“You coming back this way?” He nodded, “Yeah.” I gave him a bit of money and said, “You can stop here and get more gas and buy you something to eat.” More head nodding and gratitude.
We pulled back onto the highway and headed back the way we’d come. I had Randa call one of our church members and let them know we’d be a bit late. Figured folks would be less likely to panic if they understood the preacher was going to be a bit tardy but would be there.
A few minutes later, we pulled off on the shoulder and eased up close behind the stranded pickup. I popped the trunk lid open and pulled out the can of gas and set it down for the guy. He looked down at the can and then back at me and asked, “Have you got any jumper cables?” “No, I don’t.”
After a slight pause, I looked at him and said, “Man, everything went wrong for you didn’t it?” “Yeah, I guess it did,” he admitted. ” Well, we’ll be all right. Thank you so much for the gas and everything.” As he stuck out his hand, I noticed the streaks of motor grime. I shook it anyway.
I got back in the car and strained to see if anything was coming through the fog. We’d barely gotten through our U-turn when a large pickup without its headlights turned on came barreling out of the fog.
There’s just no explaining the things that people will do, like driving through a heavy fog without their lights on. Admittedly, I’ve never sat in a casino and gambled away my last dollar, knowing that my old truck is low on gas, needs a new battery and I don’t have the money to pay a three-dollar toll. But if I ever did, I would hope that someone else would figure I needed help more than I needed shaming.
That was kind of the whole point that brought Jesus to this world, wasn’t it?