I have a confession. It goes like this:
There was a middle-aged woman driving, and as I passed by, I watched her switch the vehicle from Drive into Reverse, spinning her wheels more and more into the snow each time. I slowed down and thought, “I should get out and help her.”
…and then I kept on driving…
The strange thing was, I didn’t really have a reason not to stop. It’s not like I thought, “Well, I’m wearing nice shoes today,” (which I was) or “She’ll probably get it figured out,” or “She doesn’t really need my help.” I didn’t think any of those things. I just…didn’t stop.
In the time it took me to get to the end of the poor lady’s street and turn left onto my own street, I had become exceedingly wracked with guilt–I’m talking, really seriously wracked…
“Random acts of kindness are seldom convenient,” I thought, and “She would probably appreciate the help.”
“It’s Christmas time,” and “What would Jesus do?” and the story of that Darn Good Samaritan all flooded into my brain before I could say “Scrooge.” I knew very well I was not raised to be the kind of person who keeps on driving. There have been so many times I’ve seen people parked at the side of the highway and I’ve said to Kyle, “Should we help them?” He usually replies with something like, “I’m sure they’re fine…everyone has cell phones these days. Plus, there’s not even anyone by the car! If they needed help, they would be flagging us down.”
I’ve filled my brain so full of similar excuses as to why I shouldn’t be a helpful person, that I don’t even need those excuses anymore—I just…don’t help people.
All this was spinning around in my head like a flurry of snowflakes, and by that time, I’d passed my house and made the necessary two turns to get back to the Damsel in Distress. (It had only been maybe 30 seconds since my initial drive-by.) But when I got there, two other vehicles had already stopped. There were now four adults pushing from the rear, but they’d made no progress. I was so anxious to make up for what I’d done 30 seconds before that I rolled through a stop sign so I could hurry and park my car. I jumped out and plowed through the snowdrift (in my good shoes) to make it to the back of that black vehicle—I really thought that if I could inch my way in among the other four people at that bumper, and offer a good hard push, then I could forget about how I’d not stopped in the first place.
I was a few steps away—maybe three or four—when the good people pushing her truck gave one final heave and loosed her from the clutches of the ice and slush. I stood there, defeated, and as she drove away, she waved out the window, saying, “Thank you all so much! I really appreciate your help!”
But she wasn’t talking to me…
I am not saying that it’s Kyle’s fault I didn’t stop—he wasn’t even there! He is a good person—a hard worker—and if he really saw a true need, he would do anything he could to help someone in despair. The fault is completely my own, and since yesterday afternoon, I have put a lot of thought into why I didn’t stop that first time around. I still don’t know the reason, but I can guarantee one thing: I will never again let myself be talked out of offering to help when I see a need for it. Because really, what’s the harm in offering to help someone who might not need it? What would they say? “No thanks, I’m fine.” Well, I can handle that. I can tolerate making a slight spectacle of myself if there is the potential of good to come of it.
I’m sure it sounds a bit cheesy, or deep, or like I’m “waxing too poetic,” but this is what I’ve decided, and it’s going to become part of what makes me me.
Laugh if you want…
…but I don’t think I’ll ever forget how it felt to stand there and know that when the lady said “Thanks,” she wasn’t talking to me.