I didn’t really expect to run into Jesus and Mary at an Alabama rest area it 11:00 PM.
I’d driven to Montgomery to see a baseball game with a friend and I was on my way back to the Microtel where Cynthia and I were staying just outside Birmingham. I was hungry and needed a pit stop, so I pulled into the rest area just north of Clanton. I’d made my visit to the facility and was on my way back to the car, when a young woman, early 20s I’d guess, walked up and asked if I’d like to “buy a rang jes’ to hep me out?” An experienced sucker, I smiled and said a curt “No thank you.” Something about the way she silently echoed my “No” as I turned away made me begin to suspect that I’d made a mistake.
As I rummaged through the cooler in my back seat for something to forestall the temptation to stop at the next exit for fast food, I noticed that the young woman, I’ll call her “Mary” for convenience, was walking into the facilities building with a little boy who looked to be three or four years old. I’ll call him “Jesus”…for convenience. I approached her and asked, “What kind of trouble has you trying to sell a ring in the middle of the night at a rest stop?” She told me, barely controlling tears, that she and her husband had “busted up” in Mobile and she didn’t have enough money for gas to get her to her parents’ home in Kentucky. I gave her $20 and, in my sternest fatherly voice, told her, “don’t do anything stupid and be careful.”
Before I’d driven three miles, the thoughts began to swirl in my head, “What kind of hospitality was that? What if that had been one of your daughters? Why didn’t you have her follow you to the next exit, get something to eat for her and the little boy, fill up her tank, and get them a room for the night at a motel?” It was too late by then of course. By the time I might have turned around and made my way back to the rest area, they’d have been long gone.
So, in a new version of the parable of the Good Samaritan, there’s a new character: first the priest who past by on the other side, then the Levite who likewise passed by on the other side. Then along comes Ric who gives him twenty bucks and tells him “Don’t do anything stupid.”
Clearly, greeting each stranger as Christ is not yet reflexive for me. I can only pray that a kinder Samaritan came along at a subsequent rest stop.