Letting Others In
Sometimes we need help. There is nothing shameful in this fact. And yet, we are often so hesitant to ask for it. It is a fact that at some point in our lives, we all will need help. Being able to ask for it is not only a gift, it is a blessing.
One Saturday night over a decade ago I was driving along a detour on an interstate (or so I thought) on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas. About the time I realized the oddity of being the only car on the roadway in the 8th largest city in the United States of America, the road stopped. There was simply no more asphalt, no markers, no barricades. Looking through the windshield of my car as the dusk approached after the setting sun, I could see only about a foot of dirt and then grass. The grass echoed the empty fields all around me, along the stretch of highway. The median was dirt but I had learned to drive on turn-rows in cotton fields so I just drove across the dirt median to the opposite side of road and began driving back the other direction, the direction from which I had just come. I saw an exit and lights of a fast food restaurant and, convinced that a glass of iced tea can solve everything, I took the exit and stopped at the eatery.
There was a man in his late 30’s who was hanging around the counter waiting. It quickly became apparent he was waiting for his hot apple pie. Hispanic, he apologized first in Spanish and then in English and stepped aside so I could order. Ordering my unsweetened ice tea, I then asked, apologizing for how crazy my question was going to sound and assuring them I was not crazy, where I was. The counter help laughed and then replied with a name I had never heard. “Am I still in Texas?” I asked. Both the girl behind the counter and the man laughed and assured me I was. The girl asked if they could help. I explained I was in the area due to my son graduating from a training and thought I was on a bypass of San Antonio in an attempt to return to my hotel. The cook came through a door from the grill area with a tray of hot apple pies and explained I had somehow gotten on a highway still under construction.
The Hispanic man said he was on his way downtown and offered to let me follow him. The girl and the cook assured me I could trust him so we got in our respective vehicles, him in his pickup truck and me in my rental sedan. Fifteen minutes later we parted ways in San Antonio and I quickly made my way to my hotel, grateful that I had returned. I realize how this could have ended and I am certainly not encouraging people to follow a stranger into the darkness of unknown territory. The entire trip back to San Antonio I was on the phone (hands free and safe) with my family on the other side of the country. I also had complete control of my vehicle and we stayed on major thoroughfares with were very well lit and heavily traveled.
When I think of the God of my life, I think of these three strangers, these three people at a well-known fast food restaurant in a small town in the middle of the largest state in the continental United States. I had once in college held a similar job so I had something in common with the cook and the girl behind the counter. I also had something in common with the Hispanic man since we were both out on a Saturday night and returning home in our cars. We were strangers and yet shared many things in common.
The extraordinary in this story is not that I got lost. People get lost figuratively and literally every day. The extraordinary is not about my trusting them. It might seem extraordinary to some that these three people were willing to help me but I think most people are willing to help. If I am honest, I happily admit this was not the first time I got lost. That is a bit ordinary in my life.
I think what makes this story have value is that first, I was willing to admit I needed help and asked for it. Secondly, there is their kindness in helping me. These three could have verbally given me directions and then, after I left, had a good laugh. They could have even given me wrong directions. Instead, one let me follow him, trusting me as I trusted him. The others were sensitive to my hesitancy and told me he was a building contractor who worked in the area and frequently stopped by to take apple pies home to his family. He was, they explained, someone they trusted and that I could trust. They did not know me but knew my worries.
Too often we try to live our lives all by ourselves. We hesitate to let others in and by doing that, we limit our own potential. None of us can be all things at all times. We need help. We need to let others in. Being able to ask for help and being honest about needing that help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being human. We are not alone in our living and learning to share that living means a better life for all.