October 16, 2008

Angels Unaware

It was around lunchtime and I headed to the bank just down the road from my office at the church, literally less than a mile away. There happens to be a Speedway right across the street from my bank and so I thought I would zip in there really quick to fill-up then maybe grab something to eat before my 1:30pm meeting. It didn't quite play out that way for me. I was just about to get in my car after filling my tank when I noticed a lady walking toward me. I smiled politely and that's where the "adventure" began.

"Excuse me sir, I'm trying to get to a church a little further north from here and have walked quite a ways to make it this far. Is there any chance you could drop me off at the church?" Right or wrong I immediately started to size this lady up and wonder things like...could I take her in a fight if I needed to?...what if she has a gun?...I know exactly where the church is she's talking about and it really would be easy to drop her off...I have a meeting in less than an hour...weird that she is asking for a ride and not money. Those were thoughts that went through my head before I said, "Sure, hop in."

After introducing ourselves she proceeded to tell me how her grandma had just recently passed away in Orlando and she was trying to get help to pay for a bus ticket to get down there for the funeral. She shared how times have been tough for her as of late and that her disability check doesn't come until Nov. 3rd and that she was short the necessary funds right now. I asked her if the church knew she was coming and how they were planning to help her and that's where the story takes another "twist".

"Well the church didn't really say they could help but I was hoping to see if they could help come up with the remaining $77 I need for my bus ticket. I know that the church office is closed from 12:30-1:30pm for lunch so maybe you could find it in your heart to help me and we wouldn't even have to go to the church?" Of course all of this is taking place while we're driving north to this church and are over half way there. She goes on to ask if I would be able to drop her off around 42nd St. which is in the opposite direction we are currently traveling.

After turning around and promising she'll pay me back $100 I tell her that I don't have that much cash on me. She proved to be extremely flexible and courteous as she mentioned that she would not mind if I needed to stop by an ATM so that I would have enough cash to meet her request. At this point I'm thinking I need to end this "adventure" so that I can make sure I'm back in time for my meeting. I tell her that $100 is not going to happen but that I would give her $80 to cover the remaining cost of her bus ticket. So I get the cash, buy her a sandwich and drop her off at 42nd St. only to get back to the office to have the meeting be rescheduled.

I have no idea who this person was and I in no way condone or recommend letting strangers into your car. I have no idea if I got scammed. Is there a possibility that I did, of course but there is also a possibility that I didn't. I had a similar "adventure" a few years ago and I remember talking to our senior pastor about it and I'll never forget what he said to me, "If you're going to err, err on the side of generosity because ultimately it's between the individual and God." Was this inconvenient, yes. Was it awkward, yes. Was it the right thing to do, no idea. The only reason I was able to have the patience I needed to enjoy this "adventure" was because of Christ, it had little to do with me. I couldn't help but think of Jesus' words, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." and who knows, maybe the writer of Hebrews had a point when he said, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."


Kathy said...

As I was reading this (when I should be working!) my thoughts went from, "how cool is that, God really is at work!" to "Dude, you were totally scammed. She knew who you were and you better hope she didn't get your PIN." Matt, I hope someday I can grow that much in my faith (in God and in people so I can squelch that buzz-kill cynic in me. So did the lady really need a bus ticket for a funeral? Maybe, maybe not. But did you do the right thing? Probably.

Matt said...

kathy: thanks for the read and comment(even if you should be working). yeah, i really have no idea how this played out for this lady but hopefully she made it to the funeral, assuming there was one.

i'm sure that God will continue to give us opportunities to grow in our faith, whether or not we see them and take them is another story.

dk said...

If you had a stash of money that wasn't yours would you think twice about giving her the bus money? Would it have been easier? It would have been for me. But the reality is I already have a stash like that. Actually all of my money is borrowed. It's all Gods. It's all his. I forget that all the time. It feels like mine. But if I treated everything I had like something I was just getting to borrow then I think I would approach these situations differently. I had a lady ask me for gas money late one night while I was emptying my grass at the recycle place in Noblesville. Had this elaborate story about her mobile home burning down and how she was trying to get to her mother's in Sheridan but she didn't know if she would make it. I looked inside the car and it was indeed on empty. I told her I didn't have any money but I had $10 at home if she would be willing to wait I could go home and get it. And so I did. That may sound generous but the fact is I had a $20 as well. But I kept that for me. That was just too much to give just in case I was being scammed. Did I do the right thing? Not sure. In my skepticism after she left I went down to a couple of gas stations on Hwy 32 to see if stopped and I never saw her. It was what it was. Next time I'll consider the verse you mentioned about angels. You never know.

Matt said...

dk: thanks so much for the read and for being willing to share that story.

you're absolutely right, it's easy to forget that "it's all His". i mean it's something we hear all the time but then to live it out...not so easy. i'm really impressed that you would go home, grab some $ and actually drive back to help this lady out. i'm not sure i would do that.

i totally understand the "drive by the gas stations" part too because the whole time i'm interacting with this lady i'm wondering if i am just a giant sucker. then i start wondering if someone can take advantage of me if i am willing to give? you're right, we may never know.

thanks again for sharing/commenting, keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Matt, the story is a good one.
I've been there a few times my self. I do beleive that God can impress one of His own to give or not to give in a particular situation. I try to remain sensative to His leading.

I do appreciate the comment from dk, "If you had a stash of money that wasn't yours... ...Would it have been easier?" That's good. I'll remember that.

Matt said...

DG: thanks for the read and comment. i completely agree with you that God's leading is situation specific, He's good like that. trying to continually walk close with Him in order to following His leading is where it can get tough but that's really what the faith journey is all about.