About three-quarters-of-a-mile before we got to our house yesterday evening, I saw him walking along the road. He walked like a man who was tired before he started, steps drifting a bit and his clothes were dirty, his hair a bit messy looking. Randa and I were in the small pickup and had the dog with us. There would have been plenty of room in the back of the truck but I’m not sure whether or not it’s legal to have passengers there in Kansas. So, we went on home.
There’s something that always bugs me whenever I pass by someone who’s in a situation like that. I remember Jesus talking about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and so on and how he said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” So, in the minute it took us to get up the driveway, my conscience and I had reached an agreement.
“If you’ll get the dog and the trash cans out, I’m gonna go back and give that guy a ride,” I told Randa. “Okay,” she responded, with no visible evidence of surprise. She slid off the seat and Layla jumped out after her. I turned the truck around and headed back toward Wathena. About a quarter-mile past the big curve, I spotted the guy, smaller than me and in his mid-forties.
I pulled over. He grinned and headed toward the truck. I asked him where he was headed. “Troy,” he answered. “Well, get in and I’ll give you a ride.”
He looked down at his dirty jeans and asked, “You want me to get in the back? I’m pretty dirty.” “Nah,” I answered, “just get up front here with me.” I didn’t care if it was legal, I wasn’t having it reported back in heaven that I’d made Jesus ride in the back of the truck.
As I swung the truck around, he explained “I ran out of gas just out of Wathena but I don’t have a gas can with me. I’ll find somebody at Troy that can bring me back over.” Troy is another four-plus miles from where he was so I suggested we just go back to my house and get a gas can. His vehicle was less than a mile from Wathena.
Since he’d already worked a twelve-hour shift and walked two miles, he was in a pretty agreeable mood. In less than ten minutes, we had gas in his vehicle and he was on his way home. My minimal bit of effort had saved him another hour-and-a-half of walking and the gas station at Troy might have been closed by that time. Disappointments have a way of stacking up once you start collecting them.
Some of the people that had passed him by while he was walking that two miles might well have been people that know him but didn’t recognize him as they drove by. It is very likely that some of them live in the same town. I’m pretty sure every one of them would want someone to stop and help them out if they were the ones stranded and starting a long walk at the end of an already long day. Every one of them probably had some perfectly good reason for not taking time to offer a dirty stranger some help. In this culture we’ve chosen to create and perpetuate, we assume everyone has a cell phone and no one needs our help. Forty years ago, he wouldn’t have gone a hundred yards without someone stopping and offering assistance. Now, he could walk seven miles without so much as a single person pulling over to give him a ride.
It would be a much better world if we would really get serious about “Whatever good you desire that others do to you, do you even so to them.” Especially when we’re all tired and dirty.