Friday, January 25, 2013
The Mediocre Samaritan
I pull out of the parking garage at Albany Medical Center, brain fried from hours of instruction for something new on my job. It feels like 30 below nothing outside, and it’s times like these when I wonder why I adore upstate New York so much. (I guess even the best of our earthly loves have flaws).
I turn the corner in front of that big complex where my beloveds were saved and I make a little living. Alas, the heat in the car will most likely kick all the way in when I arrive in my driveway. The pillow, the electric blanket, no doubt the cat, are waiting for my tired bones.
I nearly hit her.
Walking down the double yellow, in this frozen tundra, is a woman with her hand up to stop my car.
Thankfully the engine of my brain was still functional. I stopped, and she swept frantically to my window, motioning for me to open it to all that cold. She looked frozen.
“Please, please I need help. I’m freezing, and I just left the hospital…I was discharged after chemo and I need a ride to Central Ave. “ She said a few other things that made almost no sense, but she was a wreck because of the cold.
One split second to decide. “Sweet Jesus”, I prayed, “If she’s got a gun I’m done for.”
“Get in the car” I said.
She was groaning in pain. She couldn't even put her seat belt on because her hands hurt so much.
“Where can I take you?” I asked, a bit nervous, and kind of stunned after practically killing this lady with my van and not having any idea where this was going.
“Why is it so cold in here?” She groaned. “Takes a while to heat up…” I tried to speak calmly.
“All I need is $17.50 for a bus ticket to Lake George” she said. I only had $6 in my wallet. “Sorry, I don’t have that cash on me”…and I wasn't sure I’d give it to her if I did.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked.
“There’s these church people off of Central Avenue who have my bag and my prescriptions. I need to go there. And I’m hungry and I need a cup of coffee.” She said. Maria was her name. Maria, from the Hebrew word mara, which means “bitter” Bitter cold, bitter life. I was getting the picture.
“I have a three year old in Lake George with a babysitter” Maria said. I wasn't sure I believed her.
“Listen Maria, I will take you to the bus station and buy you that ticket to Lake George”.
The tune changed. “Oh no, I can’t go. I've got to get to these people and get my stuff. I thought you said you didn't have any money”.
“Only a credit card”, I said. And now I’m getting a revelation.
“I’ll get you a coffee, and something to eat. I can drop you at the City Mission. That’s a safe place.”
“The food would be good” she said. “But I need to get my stuff”.
I offered to wait while she got it, and drive her to the mission, but that wasn't her plan. I bought her a large coffee with 10 sugars and cream and a fish sandwich and fries, and felt sad as the key finally turned in the lock and I realized that she was probably a heroin addict. She most likely was lying, as addicts do, about everything. I told her the meal was from Jesus, in His name, and I apologized for seeming less than comforting. I was feeling conflicted.
She thanked me for the food, asked if she could have my 4 quarters I keep in the front of my car for my Aldi’s shopping carts, and directed me to where she wished to be dropped off. At the corner near the “church people’s house”. I dropped her off, and followed her to make sure she made it to the dark doorway she entered.
I wanted so much to fix her broken life. But all God gave me to do was drive her to McDonald’s and most likely the warm house of a fellow junkie and give her four quarters and a person to listen to her.
I felt like the mediocre Samaritan. Reluctant, tired, unspiritual, half annoyed, and of little lasting help.
Except that I called on God to care for her. He has power when all we have is a lukewarm car and some chump change.
When I arrived home, I cried and laid down my head with gratitude bursting from every fiber of my being. Thanks for a home, with a warm bed waiting and a dear man who loves me there too. For three children, safe upstairs under blankets with warm showers to anticipate in the morning. Thanks that I could have been that woman, easily, but I am not. Thankful that I have been spared the catastrophe of an addiction that destroys everything it touches. Thankful that goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, despite a crippling car accident and the heartache that followed. Despite my own sin and folly.
Blessed be His Name.
I’ll never get over the grace of God. Tortured, broken and alone He bought it for us. It’s there for me. It’s there for you.
It’s there for Maria.
Please pray for her.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,