By Eugenie Daniels
Did you ever feel that God had failed you? Sitting on the side of the freeway with traffic flying by, that is exactly how I felt. And it only got worse. My husband and I were leaving on our long-awaited vacation, for which we had scrimped and saved. I always pray for safe travel, but it seemed that God had failed me this time. About halfway to our destination, the car began to drive erratically, and upon pulling over we discovered a flat front tire.
My husband tried to remove the tire. It was rusted in place and would not budge. There was not a house in sight. We had no cell phone. Cars just kept whizzing by us. Where was God’s keeping for which I had prayed?
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a beat-up, rusted, white pickup truck slowing down on the other side of the road. It made an illegal U-turn and started back toward us. My husband and I looked at each other, and I scrambled into the car trying to hide my purse under something. The look we exchanged said, “Mugging.”
The truck stopped behind our car and a young Hispanic man got out and swaggered toward us. He wore a backward baseball cap, dirty jeans, and was built like a football player. He did not speak any English. I was sure that at best we would just lose our money and our credit card and at worst be injured in the process. I was awash in fear and panic and sure that God was nowhere in sight.
The young man spoke Spanish. My husband understood a smattering of Spanish, and they both used hand gestures to try and communicate. The Latino community has a bad reputation in our area, so we were still nervous, but the man did not seem threatening. He indicated he would try to help us with the tire. He set to work. He pushed, pulled, kicked, shoved, and looked under the car. The tire would not move. We tried to tell him in our broken communication to give it up and just send us a tow truck. We would have to pay for it out of our vacation money. But he would not give up. He went to his truck and got tools. He pried, banged, and kicked some more. Finally he gave one mighty kick and it let go. He got our spare and put it on. We prepared to thank him and part company.
However, he was not done with us yet. The young man, whose name we now knew was Jorge, got us to understand that the spare was only good for 50 miles. We were right in the middle of our trip, so we were 150 miles from either destination. We would be in danger because we had too far to go either way. He indicated we should follow him into the small city he came from and get a new tire.
Jorge had already gone above and beyond in helping us when nobody else would stop. His kindness had shamed me for stereotyping him and thinking he meant us harm based on his truck and how he looked. However, I was now suspicious again that this was a scam. I thought he worked so hard only to lead us like sheep to the slaughter—afraid he was taking us to a place nobody could see where we would be robbed, have our car stolen, or worse. We felt stuck because we needed a new tire and we had no knowledge of the area. So we got in the car and reluctantly followed him.
God Looks at the Heart
The main road through the small city twisted and curved like a cow path. The side streets were narrow and poorly marked. The traffic was bumper to bumper on this Saturday afternoon. Without Jorge to lead us, we would have been hopelessly lost. We finally arrived at a garage set down off the street with empty buildings towering around it. I was looking around the car for something to use as a weapon to defend ourselves as my husband got out of the car and went with Jorge into the garage.
But the pleasant man in the garage spoke more English and soon understood what we needed. He assured us the spare was only good for 50 miles. However, he did not have the right size tire. No problem for Jorge. He bundled us back into the car and headed out into the street again. He led us to the next garage, which was closed on Saturday afternoon. He decided the auto place at the mall several looping and turning miles away was our best bet and led us there.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). I had read this Scripture many times, but never absorbed it as I did that day. One would have thought that Jorge would leave us and enjoy what was left of his Saturday afternoon. Yet he stayed with us while we waited for the shop manager to make sure he had a tire, while we waited for someone to be free to put it on, and until we were ready to continue our journey. By then we were reluctant to leave our newfound friend. God had not abandoned me on the road. God was trying to show me something about my heart and something about Jorge’s heart.
Now I See
God taught me several things from that flat tire. First, my heart was not faithful. Because we had trouble, I immediately doubted God’s care for us. This time he had given us safe travel through human kindness. In addition, I had always considered myself a kind person who made visits to the sick and contributed to worthy causes, but I was not as kind as I thought. I saw Jorge through a lens painted with prejudice that demeaned him as a person before we even met him. I was a prejudiced and fearful person.
The last thing I learned was that I tried practicing some random acts of kindness on occasion; however, these were acts done when and where I chose and cost only what I wanted to give. Jorge showed me that Christian kindness is different. God was kind to us in giving us salvation and loving us every day. God spared no trouble, and it cost him greatly to do it. We are kind in response to his kindness to us. He asks us to “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Jorge did not spend his Saturday afternoon helping us because he was in a good mood. He did it because we needed the help. He adopted us like a mother hen with chicks. Christian kindness is there whenever there is a need and whatever the cost. It is not random.
I am so sorry, Jorge, for my first thoughts when I met you. I deeply thank you for your kindness.
Eugenie Daniels is a retired pastor’s spouse and a freelance writer from Williamstown, Massachusetts.