As I walked out of Kroger around 10 pm one night, a woman stopped me on the sidewalk between the store and the parking lot.
“Excuse me, Miss.”
I smiled. As the mother of two daughters in their 20’s, I’m not exactly “Miss” material anymore.
Two women sat looking up at me from motorized shopping carts with full plastic bags draped all around the cart like beige balloons. They were older women in Sunday-best clothes, looking quite dressed up to be hanging out at the grocery store so late on a week night.
The older woman spoke up. “Miss, do you think that you can give her a ride home?” She nodded her head over to the woman sitting in a motorized cart next to her. “My ride will be here in a minute and I want to make sure that she gets home safe. Unfortunately, my ride can’t take her.”
My eyebrows lifted. This lady didn’t even know my name, but trusted that I wasn’t a violent criminal who needed milk and eggs for breakfast the next morning.
It was 10 pm at night and I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to be at the grocery store to begin with. Now, I just agreed to drop off a stranger at an unknown location. I had no idea if the two women were in cahoots or if there was someone at the other end with nefarious intentions toward a middle-aged, African-American woman.
“Ummm…okay.” That was my reply.
The woman who’d asked me for a ride reached over and patted her hand.
“Honey, I told you that it was going to be alright.”
I hopped in my car and stashed my purse behind the driver’s seat under a pile of reusable shopping bags. Did I have anything in my purse of value? Heck no. But what if she was planning to steal my purse (which actually only cost me $13 at Kohl’s after Kohl’s Cash, Kohl’s Rewards and a 30% discount was applied). It wasn’t like I had anything of great value to lose. While my debit card and credit cards were in my wallet, let’s just say that no one was flying to Tahiti on my dime.
I battled alternating feelings of annoyance and the prickles of fear as I pulled my car up to the curb .
“Oh, thank you, honey,” the woman gushed. “I didn’t know what I was going to do if you didn’t help me.”
I loaded her groceries into my car while she hoisted her body into the front seat of my full-size SUV. She moved slowly, not from physical ailment, but a woman who looked like she was carrying the weight of the world.
I took a deep breathe and prayed that I wasn’t making a big mistake. “So, where would you like me to take you?”
I plugged her address into my GPS and noticed that I was heading toward an area of town that I’m not fond of driving through during the daytime. Before putting my phone down, I sent a quick text to my daughter and asked her to check in on my location on our family tracking app.
An uncomfortable convicting question whispered loud enough so that I couldn’t miss it: Is it that you only like helping people when it fits into your schedule? Crap.
I quietly asked God to forgive me for being such a brat and decided to actually show up and have a servant’s heart. “How long have you lived on that side of town?”
I noticed that she didn’t seem the least bit concerned that a stranger was driving her home. Huh. She replied, “I haven’t been there but a couple of months. That house is a blessing for me and my kids.”
She went on to tell me about escaping a violent husband who’d physically abused her for over a decade. My heart sank as she talked about all of times when she tried to leave but didn’t have anywhere to go. “But, a few months ago, I left. I didn’t take anything with me but my kids. I finally got us out of there.”
Her first place didn’t have furniture and it had no heat. But she described it like someone would describe a new construction in a luxury development. “And we were finally safe.”
I thought about how challenging the last few years of my life have been, but I never had to worry about heat or feeding my kids.
I asked about her children. She pulled out her phone and showed me her kids and grand-kids. “And here’s a picture of my 24-year old daughter. She died last year.”
“I’m so sorry,” was all that I could say.
She showed me more pictures of her children and grandchildren. In some ways, I could understand why she didn’t seem to mind a ride from a stranger considering all of the hurt and danger she’d faced in her lifetime. It was a humbling ride across town for me. An invitation to walk in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan. Too bad I failed miserably. Yet, I still had a chance to hear her story and spend a few minutes learning about a world that far too many of us judge without taking the time to ask questions or understand. Me, included.
As we pulled up to a shabby, but mostly secure-looking home, she looked over and smiled at me. She said, “We’ve got heat here. I found this place and the man let me rent it for a good price. I asked around and people helped me with furniture. Me and the kids are alright here.”
I hopped out of the car to help her make her way on up to the front door and I would go back and grab her groceries. It took a few trips, but I was able to sneak peaks here and there. The front door opened as I dropped the last of the bags on a plastic table and chairs sitting on the worn front porch.
“Honey, thank you again for driving me home. I really appreciate it.”
I hadn’t remembered that night until I began to think about Easter. As I thought about this story, I am both embarrassed and grateful. Embarrassed that her need revealed my selfishness, but grateful that God illuminated that humbling revelation.
We get to celebrate Easter because Jesus didn’t take the safe way out. He put himself in a dark, difficult, and dangerous place for our salvation. As Ann Voscamp wrote in The Broken Way: “How many times have I thought it was safety that mattered, when Jesus already died to save us? No one ever got saved unless someone else was willing to be unsafe.” (pg. 204)
How often do we skip helping or serving others because we’re afraid of what might happen to us?
We can’t go there because what it we catch something from them?
We can’t help them because what if they steal our purse or car while we’re there?
We can’t help them because if we do, they’ll never learn how to help themselves?
I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad that Jesus didn’t ask those questions about whether or not He would die for me. As I consider the tremendous love that Jesus showed me by giving His life for mine, I am committed to love like Jesus even more.
Committed to pitching in instead of being annoyed by inconvenience.
Committed to humility instead of fighting to be right;
Committed to unconditional love instead of avoiding out of fear.
As you experience Easter this year and consider afresh how Jesus’ loving willingness to be unsafe and suffer was the path to your eternal security, how might you demonstrate that same kind of love in order to live out the gospel to others?