The guy stunk so bad.
The reek was strong enough that part of me regretted stopping the car to try to help him.
His bike tire was flat and he was walking it down a very long road. I knew that it was going to be another 4 miles before he even made it to the edge of town and, since I had a bike rack on the back of my car, I thought I'd give him a lift.
I'm ashamed to say it but, when I got out of the car to introduce myself, shaking his hand made me feel dirty. His breath smelled of alcohol. He couldn't even talk in intelligible sentences and there weren't many teeth left in his mouth. His bike seat was ripped and his clothes looked unwashed.
After I told him I could give him a ride, I had to make a couple of quick decisions before he got in the car.
The car I was driving was my in-law's. It's nice and new. I didn't want his smell to permanently get embedded into the fancy seats. Also, I was carrying my bike on the back of the car, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to load it down with the weight of two bikes on one rack. So I asked him if I could lift his bike to see how much it weighed. It was very heavy. I told him I'd have to drive into town, drop my bike off at home and THEN I'd come back and give him a ride the rest of the way. Even though he was drunk, I think he understood and agreed to the plan.
I hurried off so I could be back before he had time to walk very far. I also was in a rush to get back home to spend time with my wife and daughters, whom I hadn't seen all day. When I got to my house I told my family that I'd be a little bit longer in getting home because I was going to help a man I saw on the road. I grabbed a couple of towels to lay over the seat he would sit in and made it back to him quickly.
When I arrived, I saw that he hadn't walked too far. He was happy to see that I had kept my promise to return. He helped me strap his bike onto my rack and barely seemed to notice that I laid towels on the passenger's seat for him to sit on.
On the ride into town, I tried to make conversation. I found out his name was Tom and that he fixed lawn mowers for a living, although I was disappointed that we didn't talk about much else. I hoped that we'd talk about something meaningful; something spiritual. I thought that if we talked about God, or about the hope of Jesus' salvation, that THEN my going out of my way to help this man would've been worthwhile.
We made it into town. I dropped him off at a gas station where he could pump up his tire. I told him it was nice to meet him. He nodded his head in thankfulness and we parted ways.
I sat in the car wondering if what I just did was a waste of time.
- Did my efforts make his life any better?
- Would he have been any worse off if he had to spend that extra hour walking down the road?
- It seemed like my efforts to help him had no chance of leading him closer to salvation.
- Should I have just passed him by on the road?
I drove home by myself thinking thoughts like these.
Later that night I asked my wife some of those questions. "Sarah, was it worth it to go out of my way to help a random drunk guy?"
I was very thankful for her answer. She quoted an Audio Adrenaline song to me that I have been playing for my daughters a lot recently. It says:
"If not us who will be like Jesus to the least of these?"
That answer made sense to me. It made me think that the world I live in is broken and hurting. It needs Jesus. It needs kindness. It needs selflessness. It needs someone to serve it. The people in it need access to Jesus and what he's like. And if it isn't Christians who will be like Jesus to hurting people, then how will hurting people ever have access to Jesus and to what he's like.
The time I spend going out of my way to help someone is time well spent because, regardless of what happens in the end, I'm being like Jesus to people that really, really, really need him.
If you're reading this, will you pray for me...that I will be able to have this mindset more throughout the moments of my day? And as I write these words, I pray for you...that you will do this more too.