Stranded on the Road to the Airport
There have been some remarkable people, friends and strangers, who have made a difference in my life in many different ways. Here's one instance of how one person's unselfish actions blessed me.
I had to be at the airport in 30 minutes so I could catch a flight to go on a ski trip with friends. I left the school where I teach, got in my car, and headed down the freeway. All of a sudden, I didn't know if I had my purse or not. I pulled off to the side of the freeway and stopped. I opened up the back door, locked the front door for some very bizarre reason, discovered my purse was not with me but was indeed at school, locked the back door, and shut it. I was locked out of my car. It was running. It was very low on gas. I didn't have a cell phone. I was stuck. There was nothing I could do.
So I prayed. I stood on the side of the road away from the oncoming cars trying to attract attention so someone would help me and at the same time trying to be safe. No one was stopping. More than 10 minutes went by. I didn't know if I was going to make my flight or contact anyone. I leaned against my car and got still. I just opened my thought to God. I knew that "God is … a very present help in trouble" (Ps 46:1). All I could do was ask God to help me. I stood up to be visible again.
A pick-up truck pulled over. A man asked how he could help. I told him the situation and asked if he had a phone I could borrow. He offered to give me a lift home. It took me a bit to realize I couldn't get into my house without my keys. Obviously, I was not thinking straight, but God was! While we were driving, I made a few phone calls and was able to contact the friend (through another friend) with whom I was traveling. I also got a hold of my mom and her friend who then drove to school to get my purse. My mom then had my dad get gas for my car. Things were underway to get me back on the road, but there's no way I could make the flight.
While we drove, I learned that the man who was helping me was a parent of a former student of mine. We had a good chat about his daughter and what she was doing. He stopped to fill a container with gas for my car. He dropped me off at my car where a road-side assistance man was now waiting to help me get into my car. Before the man left, I asked if I could do anything for him. He said something to the effect of: "No. I'm just glad I was able to help. I was in trouble once and someone helped me. When I asked if I could do something, the person said just to help someone else. So, just help someone else."
I got his card, thanked him profusely, and waited until my mom and friend showed up with my purse. My mom took me to the airport while the friend waited by my car for my dad to show up with more gas, as he didn't know that the man in the pick-up had gotten gas for me. My family and friend had totally stopped what they were doing to help me.
I didn't reach the airport when I was supposed to. But my traveling friend, who met me at the airport, told me that our flight had been delayed 40 minutes. I was going to make the flight. Even my skis made it!
When I got back from the ski trip, I sent the pick-up truck man flowers and a thank you note. For me, he was God's messenger, God's helper, God's angel meeting my need and making a difference in my life.
Both his actions and his words have stayed with me. I smile and laugh whenever I think of that experience. I laugh because of how silly I was. I smile at his kindness. People like him remind us that even though the news keeps telling us people are awful, there are plenty of people who are genuinely kind and good. It gives us hope for humanity and gave me one more reason to thank God.
While, as a woman, I have not given a lift to someone stranded on the side of the road, I have honored the request to "help someone else." Indeed, I have found many ways to help others -- taking someone's shopping basket back to the curb, helping crying babies and children become still or even laugh, letting someone with only a couple items go in front of me at the grocery store checkout, picking up windblown papers for someone who was very disgruntled by having her papers scattered. While these may not be of the same magnitude, the same spirit is there. It's that spirit that makes a difference.