"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." — Matthew 25:35
I was reading a news story recently about a passerby who pulled an accident victim from a burning car. That reminded me of a video I saw some months back about a group of people who ran to the aid of a motorcyclist who had been hit by a car and was trapped underneath. The car was on fire. The people actually lifted the car up enough for someone to pull him out from under the car and to safety before the car exploded.
The term “good Samaritan” comes from a story in the Bible about a man who was mugged on the road and left to die. Many people passed by, but then a Samaritan stopped and helped him. He took the man to an inn and paid the innkeeper to nurse him back to health. There are many levels to the story, like the fact that Samaritans were not popular in that area and yet it was a Samaritan who stopped while the victim’s countrymen ignored his plight. The point, though, is that a stranger stopped to help.
I was in a bad car accident once. I was driving on a two lane highway in Arkansas at night. As I approached a curve on the outside, a pickup truck driving too fast in the other direction on the inside lane swung wide into my lane. I veered off to the shoulder, but lost control in the gravel and plunged off the road. My car flipped over down an embankment and ended up upside down. I was on the roof of the car in the dark, disoriented and in shock. I was most concerned for my two dogs. I found them in the rear of the car and managed to climb out one of the doors with them and scramble through the brush back up to the road.
By that time, several cars had stopped and people were coming down the embankment to help me. In a daze, I was aware of people asking me if anyone else was in the car and if I was all right. I felt a twinge in my shoulder and when I reached to touch it realized that my collarbone was smashed. I calmly said I needed a ride to the hospital.
There was some discussion among my rescuers. One young couple was headed in the direction of the nearest hospital. They loaded me and the dogs in their car and off we went. At the hospital, they came in with me. Once they saw I was in good hands, they took my dogs home with them. When friends were able to pick me up hours later, they brought my dogs back to the hospital. (They must have given their phone number to someone at the hospital.) In my shock and by that time drugged state, I didn’t even get their names.
Strangers helping strangers. In dramatic ways and everyday ways. My daughter was walking home from high school one day. She saw a woman who looked lost and distressed. Mia offered to help. The woman clearly had some sort of mental disability and had gotten off at the wrong bus stop. She was able to give Mia her address. It was a long detour for Mia, but Mia walked her all the way home and made sure there was someone there for her. Mia has done many wonderful things in her life, but I count that as one of the things I’m most proud of.
At some point in our lives, we all find ourselves, as Blanche so famously said in "A Streetcar Named Desire," dependent on the kindness of strangers. Sometimes, we are that stranger offering kindness to someone else. And in those moments, whether giving or receiving help, we realize something that at other times we so easily forget.
There are no strangers.