About six months ago, I wrote a post about something, that to this day, still bothers me. During the past week, I had a second chance to do what I considered to be the right thing. Not that it helped the man I left walking in the dark all those months ago, but it helped someone else.
A co-worker and I were on the drive home from a twelve hour day. She was filling out paperwork while I was driving, and I passed a truck on the side of the expressway with its flashers on, then a man walking about 100 feet from it, head down, hands in his pocket, coat zipped up as far as it could be to cover his face.
I hesitated for a moment, then continued driving before braking and pulling off to the side. "There's a man broke down back there, is it going to freak you out if I stop and pick him up?" I asked my colleague. "No, but it would freak me out if you did it when you were alone". I put the car in reverse and backed up to the stranger.
The next exit was over four miles away, and it was bitter, bitter cold. He'd run out of gas and didn't have a cell phone to call anyone. I handed him my phone so that he could call for help. We left him at a fast food restaurant off of the exit so that he could wait for the person that was coming to get him. I made sure that he had enough money to buy a coffee to warm himself up.
"Thanks", he kept repeating to me. "Thanks so much. If I see you along the road, I'll be sure to stop."
"If you see anyone that needs a hand, just help them," I responded, "That can be your thanks back to me".
He looked stunned for a second, then something--almost light--dawned on his face, and with a cracking voice he responded, "I'm going to. I'm going to help someone else. Thanks, lady".
And I'm certain that he will; I know not many certainties in life, but with all that is within me, I know that.
And there lies the dilemma within me. Had I been alone, would I have stopped? I believe that even if it were just myself, this was a person that simply needed a hand. After all this time, it bothers me that I haven't answered this question, that I don't know this about me.
Am I the sort that only offers hope when it fits into my time frame? When I am secure in my surroundings? When they are dressed appropriately and don't appear too desperate? When it's light and sunny and not dark and cold? When it's convenient for me?
How many others on a daily basis do I pass, walking along some other road that I cannot even see, that I don't give a second thought to? The old woman across the road from me, shoveling herself out from the snow storm? The woman in the supermarket whose children were running up and down the aisles, her baby in one arm, screaming, shoppers glaring at her, the sheer exhaustion in her eyes weighing me down? The man who I only made eye contact with for one second as he was shoving along his shopping cart full of possessions while I scurried as fast as I could to my car?
How many chances did I let pass me by to alter a persons perception of what type of kindness this world holds?
Would I have stopped, that night last week, had I been alone in my car? I don't know the answer to that, even now.
That's what makes this full circle seem more of a jagged line, piercing in and out of my soul.