Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Doesn't Anyone Read the Parable of the Good Samaritan Anymore?

This past Sunday Pam and I thought we would take a drive. It was a beautiful day - sunny and warm. The perfect day to put the top down on the Miata and explore the Georgia backroads. So, after three worship services we dashed home, changed clothes, gassed up, and headed out thinking we would make it to Newnan and grab a bite there before heading to parts unknown.

That was the plan anyway.

We got stuck behind someone going slow, r-e-a-l slow. And we couldn't see much, being low to the ground and all. We were stuck for a long time. You know the drill: two lane country highway, few passing zones, and everytime we hit a zone there were cars coming from the other direction.

Finally, we got lucky. I zipped into the left lane, punched it, and then BANG, immediately hit the largest pothole in the state of Georgia. The car limped to the intersection we were approaching. I turned onto the four lane divided highway, pulled over, and got out to inspect the damage.

The front driver's side tire was as flat as they come - a big ugly gash in the sidewall. Oh, you remember we were in the Miata? Yeah, the little cars that don't come with a spare; instead, you get a can of sealant and compressed air. That is all well and good for a puncture, but does nothing for a two inch hole in the sidewall.

Thank goodness for technology. We grabbed the GPS, hit "help" then "where am I?" We were in the middle of nowhere, but it said "Fairburn". Next step, pull out the iPhone, get the Internet, Google "Fairburn Towing". It was a busy day, but they said they could get to us within the hour.

For fifty-five minutes we watched a stream of cars pass by. They stopped at the stoplight and looked at us. Their heads swiveled to look at us as they accelerated through the intersection heading on their way. Dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, heading back from lunch after church, they looked at us. And for nearly an hour, not one person stopped.

Now, this was not some six foot four, three hundred ound, scraggly-bearded guy with a broken down pickup truck with a "Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort 'Em Out" bumper sticker. This was little ol' me, and littler ol' Pam in a MIATA broken down on the side of the road. We were about as unintimidating as you can get.

But no one stopped.

Not even to ask if we needed them to call someone.

Not even the folks dressed in their Sunday finest going home after the lunch following worship.

If a Muslim man from the Mideast stopped it would have made this a sermon illustration down the road. But he didn't. No one did.

I'll remember that the next time I see someone on the side of the road. And I'll stop. Even if only to ask if I can call someone for them.

I hope you will as well.


Rue said...

I wonder how many people didn't stop because they assumed that, in this age of almost ubiquitous communication technology, you didn't need help. In this case, that assumption would be correct. But your comments are a good reminder that there are times when that assumption may not be correct (dead cell phone battery, medical emergency, etc). And, even if they are, we are still called to take care of each other, particularly in times of need and regardless of whether the people are big and scary looking or smaller and mostly harmless appearing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, that was a good story, it's a shame that it's true, but still amusing.

My name is Phil Brewer. My wife and I are very good friends with Charlie & Pam Sewell here in Murfreesboro (Pam sent me this). We think the world of those guys!

We used to think nothing of stopping & helping people, but it only takes a few deranged people to spoil it for everyone. But yes, we must keep the helping spirit, but at the same time, use good judgement.

Thanks, Phil Brewer

Mary said...

Dear Jim,

My name is Mary Hoettels and I only just now read your article. I am a retired Army vet and have been in your situation.

It only took one incident to get organized. My military required traveling alone or with children in the past. I will tell you I never would trust anyone if they would stop. I would even contact the State Patrol HQ to verify the trooper was who s/he was.

We do have Road Side Assist program which is free with USAA Car insurance. You would be eligible for USAA Insurances.

Road Side Assist is great. They call frequently to let you know how long until someone arrives and to check if someone has called you.

Also, I do not know if you hit something to tear your tire up so deeply, but the first of the month when you check your fluids, check your tire tread and outside wear. Rotate the tires four times a year and check for even wear on the tires. I had the tires filled with nitrogen as we are on the road a lot ( with our last son who is going to college) and since both my spouse and I are both disable vets, we cannot afford to sit on the road. I do not know if nitrogen is an option in your state since it is very warm.

Also, even for short drives, do you carry water, radio with batteries, back up batteries for you cell phone or keep your cell phone charged while driving? I know you have been trained not to be predictable, but you are back in the states, let someone know you are on the road and should be back by XYZ time. If not, advise them who you want them to contact or where in general to look for you.

The culture of driving in the US continues to be spontaneous. But, you just cannot get around it, you have to drive with a plan, a contact, provisions, flashlight, maps,blankets, change of clothing for each (gps instruments are known not to be reliable).

I have enjoyed reading your observations and writings on life and God. I am working my way back but I am still far away.


Mary E. Hoettels

Anonymous said...

My Dad was the best at stopping - drove the rest of the family crazy b/c our trips would more often than not take an extra hour or so - but he was a long-haul truck driver and his office was the road, so he had a "we all take care of each other" attitude.

Once on a mountaintop during a family vacation to Mexico he stopped to help a broken down car. "Dad, they won't even be able to speak to you," my sister said. But as we cruised to a stop behind them we saw their license plate: "Kentucky." Turns out they were from a town not two hours from my hometown in TN. And the relief on the couple's faces when they heard my Dad speak good-ole-boy southern. "We didn't know how we were going to even ask for help!"

My Dad was the ultimate good Samaritan and thanks to him there's at least a few more out there today - our trips still take an hour too long from time to time.