Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going Home

I was driving the truck home late. I'd come down Massachusetts, which I often do late at night because that's just about the right amount of night life for me. And I was first in line sitting at the red light, waiting to hear the words "WALK LIGHT IS ON TO CROSS 6TH STREET; WALK LIGHT IS ON" that would signal a green light for me to proceed across the bridge. Traffic was light, and I wasn't paying much attention to anything.

Never-the-less alert to my environment, I noticed when the man on the northwest side of the intersection moved. Suddenly, he turned, looked both ways, and bolted into the intersection. Was he trying to get across before the walk light was on to cross 6th street? He moved hesitantly at first, then boldly. But instead of heading to the corner next to me, he ran up to the driver's window of the truck.

In the streetlight shadows, long straggly hair flopping into his face as he ran, his behavior first inspired me to think he was someone I knew but just didn't recognize. Or someone who knew me by sight because of the covering, but whom I didn't particularly have acquaintance with. But as he reached the truck and spoke, I knew he was a stranger. Not even a bus customer, or he would have mentioned recognizing me.

"I live in North Lawrence. Can I pay you to take me across the bridge?" I was dumbstruck. This broke all the rules! Just this summer an lgbt person was badly beaten when strangers offered him a ride downtown at night. Now this strange, bold man was asking me to let him into my truck and drive him into a dimly lit section of town.

Everything stopped. "What on earth does God want me to do with THIS?" I wondered. Visions of axe murderers, carjackers, etc. threatened to take over my mind.

But the only thing to do seemed to be to gesture him to the passenger door with a solemn flick of my head. Profuse thanking ensued, clearly powered by alcohol. He held a handful of coins towards me, saying, "Here, gas money." "Just put your seatbelt on", I said quietly. After the second request, he complied.

As the walk light turned on to cross 6th street, I asked where he wanted to go, and he indicated a general area of the neighborhood. I drove to the nearest major intersection where I could easily continue on my way home. As we went, he continued to thank me. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye once, and saw that he was watching me intently. Yet I didn't feel afraid or threatened. I just drove serenely down familiar roads. "You're an angel," He went on. "A real angel of God. I'm a sinner. Thank you again...well, I'm not that much of a sinner, I'm a man of God, I just..." If I responded, it was with the slightest Mona Lisa smile of amusement at his classic alcohol-based reasoning.

"No," I said slowly. "I'm not an angel. I'm a child of God, and I'm a sinner, just like you." He lapsed into profuse thanks again.

Coming to an intersection near his destination, I stopped and said, "I'll need to turn here." Amid profuse thanks, he offered the money again, and again I refused. He left the truck and we went our separate ways.

Ever get the feeling you've just met an angel, as a test of your Christian integrity?

As I think back on this event, I realize once again the blessing of not being a news junky or watching a lot of TV or movies. I was able to make a rational assessment of the situation, rather than flashing back to images of some horror movie scene. I could just let the scene unfold on its own. And that left me free to do what Jesus might have done.

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