A woman was walking around our apartment complex as I was putting my kids in the car to head off to our weekly church play-group. My husband was inside the house, intending to stay home and do some schoolwork. After I strapped my kids in the car, I grabbed my husband’s school bag out of the back when this woman apologetically asked if I could help her out and give her a ride.
She told me she used to live in the townhome on the end of our building, lived there for six years before moving to her current place and had tried to see if some people she knew where around to give her a ride, but they weren’t, and there wasn’t a bus that went that way. She had planned on walking the roughly 3.5 miles home after her appointment that morning, but it was pouring down rain and only about 56 degrees, otherwise she wouldn’t have asked.
Would you believe, I was actually going almost exactly to where she lived, like the same road, right at that very moment?
However, it’s seems the common rule of thumb that you never pick up hitch-hikers, that you never offer rides to strangers, especially as a woman. It’s too dangerous. It’s too risky: What if they are a rapist? A robber? A child molester (and your kids are with you)? A drunk or drug-addict? They are a stranger and (apparently) not to be trusted.
But, today, I gave a ride to a complete stranger. Without hesitation.
So, I said, “Yeah! Sure. I’m going that way anyway!” She was so pleased and thankful that this middle-aged black woman gave me a hug! She hopped in the car and I quickly ran back inside to drop off my husband’s school bag for him. I quickly told him I was giving a stranger a ride as she was going the same direction, and headed back out. He asked if I had the cell phone (we share one) in case I needed to call our home phone, and then said “Okay, have fun!”
If you are paying attention you’ll notice I left this stranger in my car for 30 seconds, alone, with my only children, my precious twin daughters. But, she was graciously just waiting there in the passenger seat, with the door ajar slightly, so as to not freak out my kids, who would have been trapped in a car with a stranger if the door was shut.
As we drove she talked away, telling me a bit about herself, but also praising God for the gift I was to her, complimenting me in various ways. And I do believe that I must have been an answer to this woman’s prayers. I mean, how incredible was it that I was going to almost the exact place she needed to be at just that time?
But, I could have said, “No!” to this woman, lied, or made some excuse. I could have let her walk in the cold, down-pouring rain, simply because I didn’t know her, and perhaps she would’ve been just fine.
But, maybe she wouldn’t have been just fine. Maybe she would have caught a cold or been hit by a car: none of her walk had sidewalks or crosswalks. It would have taken her roughly 1.5-2 hours to walk that distance, by which time she would have been soaked to the bone. But, the drive was only took 10 minutes or less.
As I dropped her off at her house, she told me her name, and pointed out where she lived in case I ever needed anything. I told her my name, and we parted ways. She told me she would pray to God for my kindness. Then I drove the quick mile down the street to my playgroup destination.
So, I broke the rule today – I gave a complete stranger a ride. But, I think it may have been one of the best things I have done in a while.
I remember in college when I was once offered and accepted a ride back to my dorm room late at night by three men I didn’t know. It saved me quite a bit of time and they didn’t try anything funny, though I was nervous most of the ride home, even though this was at Brigham Young University.
I also remember going truck driving with my father as a young kid and him picking up a hitch-hiker or two, hearing all sorts of tales from those we picked up and dropped off.
I also remember when my parents decided to let a male Guatemalan college student come live at our house for a semester, though they did not know him, and they had two teenager daughters still at home.
I also remember the various times my husband has pulled over to the side of the road and offered help to strangers who were having car troubles, sometimes giving a stranger or two a ride to the nearest gas station and back, or helped them push or jumpstart their car.
I remember when I was at a dentist appointment 20-30 minutes away from home (when we were living with Josh’s parents) and my car would not start. I remember nervously asking the people in the waiting room if any of them had jumper cables, and fortunately this grandma-aged woman did. And then after some difficulty getting the hood popped (since the only part of the hood-pop level remaining was a wire), we were finally able to get it jumped and started, but only after the help of another gentleman stranger from the waiting room.
I remember when I was driving home late one night in the dead of winter while in high school, and accidentally ran my parent’s car up into the snowbank right next to the end of my parent’s driveway and couldn’t get the car out of it. I remember frantically trying to push it back down, and dug snow out from around the tire, but to no avail, hoping to avoid getting my parents up. But then a stranger stopped his car and offered help to me, a stranger, in the middle of the night. And sure enough, we got the car unstuck, though my mother had awoken and come outside and helped too.
I don’t know why we have such a fear of each other, of “strangers.” In all of these situations, strangers were of good intentions. They wanted to help and/or received help from a stranger. And nothing bad came from it, but in fact a lot of good.
While I know and understand there are “creepers” out there, most people aren’t creepers. We’re just strangers. We have yet to have met. And sometimes chance meetings bring about the greatest good, and help us remember that we are not alone, that people do still care about others, that goodwill is not dead, but indeed lives on.
Have you ever received helped from a stranger? Have you ever given help to stranger? Have you ever taken a ride or given one to strangers?