Sunday I encountered a new variety of pedestrian. An older lady on her walker. Walking down the hill on Cambridge Street in Burlington, she reached a place where the sidewalk ends so she just kept her stride a going alongside all the cars. I almost didn't see her the way the shadows ran.
When I drove past I thought of my Great Aunt Nancy who has been deceased four years now, and how much my mom would be yelling at her if she was racing the northbound Sunday traffic in the right lane of a main road in the Boston suburbs, Is this woman crazy!? I then recalled my old Campus pastor from freshman year Kathleen Haines telling a story of picking up a woman walking a stroller with two kids in the street where there was no sidewalk. Rev Kathleen would pick up people all the time. Then I just decided, "I'm going to offer this woman a ride."
I didn't hear a voice from the clouds like it was Monty Python and the holy grail, or even something crazy like a burning bush. Just a split second decision to do something about this unsafe unnecesary act while recalling the examples of kindness I'd seen from previous chapters of my life when rides were given.
I turned around and pulled over. It was awkward, the only place I could stop to wait on her was an intersection where a guy trimming bushes gave me funny looks for just idling there. And I stayed in my car waiting for her to continue down the busy street to where I was, praying no one hit her while I just sat there. It's crazy with vehicles, on short mistake and that could be the end. As she crossed the side street in front of me I asked if she needed a ride somewhere. She said "you can take me back to my apartment right down the hill here." I helped her in the passengers seat and folded the walker. I really felt like I was with Aunt Nancy or going to lunch with someone from Sunnyside assisted living home during my college days.
As we drove down the hill I said, "just tell me where to turn." She said, "I live in ____ Apartments on Birchcrest street. it's right down the hill here." Still being unfamiliar with the neighborhood, I thought I'd just keep going and wait for her to tell me where to go. We kept going, she told me she passed this store, and these buildings, and that one, and it's on her side just up here. At almost 2 miles from where I picked her up I realized--and she realized--she was lost. We drove back to the town common near where I picked her up to try and maybe ask at the town hall or police station for directions. But it was Sunday so that's all closed.
From what I gathered she got to the town common, a large park and got turned around and was walking down the wrong side street from the park thinking it was hers when I saw her in the road.
I drove her to my church and found Steven, the doorman, head of Sanctuary Security. He told me where her apartments were. I asked if she wanted to stay for church. She laughed. I took her home. She said to say a prayer for her. The end.
I share that story first of all to say, I';m pretty sure I'll be a nasty mess to take care of when I'm older. Friends, just shoot me when I get old and daffy. Just hit me when I make it to the road in my walker.
|Image retrieved from http://www.racinggrannies.com/|
Second I want to reflect on what may or may not be an experience of calling.
When I passed her I said out loud, "that woman is on a walker in the middle of the road what kind of place is this?" then those thoughts of Rev Kathleen picking up people in Harrisonburg, VA then I just turned around to ask. No "voice of God" just a memory and the realization I could do something about this thing I saw wasn't right.
When she was in the car I thought it would be just one straightforward task, but I was just as lost as she was. I don't know my way around Burlington very well. I looked through my car and didn't have a map. I had to make a lot of problem solving decisions. Who do I call, where do I go, who should I ask??? Was I the best person to pick her up? Thankfully, being Sunday, I had a congregation of long time Massachusetts residents at church to be a living GPS for me.
If I say this was "the spirit moving" like some people from church told me it was, I want to let you know that sometimes we may be pretty confused doing what the spirit wants. And that's ok, just go along with it. Sometimes God gives us the heart for something but maybe not a roadmap. Maybe you'll be confused a lot of the time. The Bible tells us God provides (Philippians 4:19) . But when it seems like God doesn't provide (you can't find the map) you see that God gives us community, other members of his body to recruit for help. Other people are such an accessible resource. Weather in a church, school, or just asking a random guy on the sidewalk for directions, God will give you all the resources you need to help. Trust that. God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you"
If it wasn't the spirit moving...then what do you call the time lining up that I was late leaving the house and hit the right number of red lights so that I saw this lady at the one block where there was no sidewalk and she was in the street. And I'm not one to pick up people often, it just kind of happened. I even wanted to stop that day for some groceries on the way, but just felt like I should keep going. If we don't call it the spirit, what else is there? please answer that for me in the comments section.
Afterwards I wonder if I hadn't picked her up how far would she have walked along that street before asking for help or realizing it was the wrong street? Who else would have stopped to pick her up that may have known the city better? What other driver texting or changing the radio wouldn't see her and hit her? You can go down the wild road of scenarios on how the events would have played out otherwise, or how I could have done it better. But it happened this way and I hope she's in a better place for it.
Is this the work of God? Is this just Alex doing something nice so he can write about it? Does the motive even matter? How do you tell the difference between your gut and the holy spirit?
In my attempt to answer these questions I acknowledge I don't have a seminary degree, but here's my best guess.
1. "Follow your gut and follow your heart. God's in both of them" My friend Hannah told me that. 2. If it is a voice telling you to show love, grace, and/or compassion it's probably the holy spirit. Do it. That's my answer. 1 John 4 sais it pretty elequently.
"do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the spirit of God; every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming and now it is in the world already. Little children, you are of God and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world...we are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
All deep questions I think about in my spare time. When did you respond to a voice from God? or a gut feeling to do something Godly?