Can Compassion Survive a Virus?

On a Saturday morning, headed out to take care of some maintenance chores, I came upon a man pushing a bicycle along the road about four miles north of Ark City. In view of the barely above freezing temperatures and the nature of wind chill, he was dressed in heavy Carhartts, wearing gloves and a sock hat.

I pulled over onto the shoulder just in front of him and got out of my ’97 Ford Ranger. From what I could see of him, he looked to be around forty or so. “Something wrong with your bike?”

He shook his head. Having had a few miles of experience on a bicycle, I then asked, “Legs give out on you?” He nodded.

“Where you headed?”

He indicated he was going in to work at a clinic in Winfield. “Do you mind riding up front with me and a dog?”

I’ve never had anyone who was pushing a bicycle on a frosty morning ever indicate any apprehension about riding in close proximity to a friendly, well-behaved canine. I must admit, though, my sample size is quite limited. Current total of respondents: one.

He put his bike in the bed of the truck and I put Layla’s sleeping pad in the back of the truck and got her over close to me while the guy got in. He was just over six feet tall and looked to weigh around two-twenty. (Insulated overalls can lead one to over-estimate.) Layla managed to contort her forty-two pounds into the little bit of open space between the two of us and lay her head on my lap.

“What time you supposed to be there?” After he said “eight,” I checked my cell phone. It was just now ten after and we were at least eight miles away, maybe a bit more. But, we got him there a few hours sooner than he would have made it pushing a bicycle.

I suppose most folks would understand if I hadn’t bothered to pull over. In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, some might say I was being foolish. At the least, I guess, I could have had him ride in the back of the truck. That thought didn’t even occur to me.

I’ll admit, I hesitated about pulling over initially. And I would also admit that I had reservations about sharing the tiny cab of a ’97 Ranger with a stranger who might be hosting a disease that I’d really like to not share. With anyone.

But, I knew exactly what I’d want someone to do if they saw me pushing my bicycle along the side of the road. And that’s what I tried to do.

I will not seek out situations now or ever to deliberately or indifferently place myself in harm’s way. I will not “tempt the strength of the Lord [my] God.” You can bet everything you own or owe that as long as my brain remains mostly mine I will never intentionally take up a poisonous serpent or drink poison just to prove my faith is stronger than my survival instinct.

But under most circumstances, I will not drive by someone walking ten miles to work on a cold morning and not offer that person a ride. I’d rather die trying to live by the Golden Rule than die helping those that have the gold rule.

H. Arnett
3/26/20

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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