I caught a glimpse of a man today. Just a glimpse out the window of the car. I was traveling home with some friends down a little state highway and there he stood on the side of an intersection of the road. If I had been traveling by myself, I would have stopped. I would have had to stop. As it was, we just kept driving. No one mentioned him. It was like he wasn’t even there.
This man was not the type you usually see on the side of a road. He was an old man with gray hair. I would guess late seventies or so. He looked like someone’s grandpa. Like a nice old man. He was standing in front of an old truck that was parked there, and held a big handwritten sign that read I NEED HELP.
That’s all I know from the glimpse I caught of him. But there is so much more that I want to know.
What is his story? Where is his family – his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his brothers and sisters? Where are his friends? What could have possibly happened to get this man to the point that he is standing on the side of the highway, all alone, and asking for help?
And what is our story? That we could just drive on by without even thinking about it. Without even slowing down. Without even mentioning it.
Have we just become numb because of all the people out there who are just trying to use us and the system? Do we just automatically assume it’s a con because we don’t want to be fooled?
Back in the early 1960’s, we lived out by my granddaddy’s cotton farm in Tennessee. My daddy was looking for work, and would hitchhike about forty miles into Memphis every day to look for a job. And then hitchhike back home every night. I guess that things were different back then, because someone always stopped to give him a ride.
I’ve been there myself. In a place where I needed help. When Joey was a boy still living at home, he and I commuted three hours a day for my work and his school. I was a struggling single mom and there seemed to never be enough money, so the car I drove had problems. Lots of problems. It wasn’t the best of situations. Our car broke down on the side of the highway one morning on the way to work and school. So there we were, a mama dressed for work in a suit and heels and her little boy, walking along the highway. And no one stopped. No one even slowed down.
I know that there are lots of people who do help others. I pulled my jeep to the side of the highway the other day to check something on my phone. I hadn’t been pulled over for more than a minute or two, when I got a call. It was a woman I know. She and her husband had driven by, saw me pulled over and wanted to make sure that everything was ok. It meant a lot to me. That she thought of me. That she took the time for me. That she wanted to help.
I didn’t know the man on the side of the road today. I couldn’t call him and ask if everything was ok. But his sign said he needed help. That should have been enough. I should have at least taken the time to listen to his story. I’ve been there myself.
Just a glimpse was all I caught of him.