Yesterday – Sunday – I was driving out of my gated community on my way to church. Normally my husband would be driving, but he was on a time constraint to finish a contracted painting job. As I pulled up to the exit gate, I saw a truck, with a young man standing beside it, parked off to the side on the entrance side. He looked distressed and was trying to call or text on his phone. Usually when this happens, someone is trying to get inside the complex but doesn’t have a code to open the gate.
I lowered my window and asked if he needed to get in – not my van, the housing complex. I was going to give him my code. Trust me, there is nothing secure about this complex. The gate codes are to give us residents the allusion of security.
The young man approached my van. He tells me: He ran out of gas, can’t get a hold of his wife, needs a gas can and ride to a gas station. He’s clean-cut, doesn’t look threatening and starts off by extending his hand and saying he’s James. He also offers me money to help him. My response to his obvious distress, “I can’t. I’m on my way to church and I’ll be late.”
What? I’m a woman and I was alone, but the minute the words left my mouth, I thought how ludicrous I sounded. How could a Christian on his/her way to church refuse to help? If I didn’t want to help, I should never have stopped. The truth? I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. My brain quickly ran through possible scenarios to help, because it only took me a few seconds to realize I was going to help.
WWJD. I remember when that was all the rage. Christians wore bracelets, necklaces, t-shirts and plastered it on everything – WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? I told the young man to get in my van. I drove him back to my house, got our gas container filled with gas for the mower, gave it to him and told him it was enough gas to get him to a gas station. (okay, I know I used the word gas a lot in that sentence) He – James – asked me about church, told me about his wife and one-year-old son, and baby girl due in three months.
He repeatedly thanked me, offered me money again. I again refused the money, but told him to return my gas container. Just put it in my driveway, I said. I felt good about helping. I felt remorse that being inconvenienced keeps me from helping more often. Shame on me. Shame on us. I was late for church, but lightning didn't strike me. And my gas can? It was not here when I returned home from church two hours later. It still hasn’t been returned.
*sigh* What Would Jesus Do? Well, Jesus might use it as a parable, so I think I’ll work this into a story. And, yes, my husband told me how dangerous the situation could have been, after he told me it was sweet of me to help.