Quiet country road. Mid afternoon. No traffic. Scruffy-looking stranger standing along side the road. You are the only one on the road. He motions for you to pull over. Do you stop?
The scenario is real. It happened Friday afternoon as I was heading to town to pick up my four oldest children. I had my two littles with me when I saw the scruffy-looking stranger standing just a few hundred yards from my driveway. He was standing at the entrance of a two track and motioning for me to pull over.
Initially, I was startled to see somebody there because rarely does anybody besides me walk on our road. I slowed down my Suburban and rolled down my window. It was only 18 degrees above zero and he was wearing a red flannel shirt and dirty blue jeans. There was no other vehicles around. I did not know what to do. Stop or continue on my way?
Finally, I stopped. He came up to my Suburban window.
Scruffy stranger: “Hello ma’am”
Me: “Can I help you?”
Scruffy stranger: “Yeah, I am stuck down on the two track” pointing behind him to an unplowed snowy road.
Me: “I would love to, but I actually don’t have time, I need to go get my kids from school”
Scruffy stranger (face falling but still cheerful) “Oh, okay”
Me, having a change of heart, hesitatingly, haltingly: “Get in, let’s do this”
Scruffy stranger, as he is getting in the passenger side of my vehicle: “Thank you ma’am!”
Me: “Where about’s you stuck?”
Scruffy stranger: “Down by my camper trailer on my property”
Me: “My name is Stephanie, nice to meet ya”
Scruffy stranger, reaching over to shake my hand: “My name is Jim, nice to meet ya, too. Do you live in the big house?”
Me: “Yep, that’s me”
Scruffy stranger aka Jim: “Does your husband….?
Me: “….drive dune buggies down past here?”
Jim: “Yes, that’s him..name was Brian, correct?”
Me: “Ya, that’s him”
We finally got to his place and I could see that he had buried his Jeep Liberty in tough northern Michigan spring snow. He was not going anywhere.
The whole time my two littles sat in the back asking questions and trying to tell our new friend Jim all about their life in the short three minute ride we had to his place.
Jim hooked up a tow rope to the sway bar on his Jeep Liberty and I backed up the Suburban. We tried for five minutes to pull him out, but he was certainly stuck.
At this point I needed to go get my kids from school. I had no cell phone. He had no cell phone. He knew nobody up here. I could not be late picking up my kids. However, I said if he could wait one hour I would come back with my husband to help him out.
Once my kids and I were home from school, I waited for husband’s return from work. I remembered my promise to Jim to send help. My husband did not return at his normal time and seemed to be running behind, so I left all six children home and was determined to run down there to help him myself. On the way down there I met my husband and this was our conversation:
Husband: “Where were you going?”
Me: “Down on that two track to help Jim get unstuck”
Me: “Camper trailer, Jeep Liberty, two foot of snow, told him we’d be back”
Husband, changing into his Carrhart overalls: “Let me grab my stretchy tow strap….”
He does not even question my line of thinking and just drove us down there. Once we got there Brian had Jim pulled out within two minutes. They realized they had met the previous summer. So we stood there talking. On this quiet country road. Just the three of us talking about guns, politics, and campfires.
Remember, my hesitation?
Hesitation. I did not want to stop. I did not want to roll down my window. I did not want to go down this two track with this scruffy stranger I did not know. However, I did. Was my initial hesitation due to protection of my children? Sheepishly, I have to admit I had hoped he was not going to kill me. It is pretty desolate up here, especially wintertime on a country road mid afternoon with no traffic. Wait, make that an isolated unplowed two track that nobody lives on. Did I mention no cell phones?
What was I doing? Part of me wanted to protect myself. Part of me wanted to help him. Goodwill won. Fifty years ago nobody would have hesitated to stop and help a stranger. Today, all these fears plagued me.
Stranger danger! Keep yourself safe! Can’t trust anybody!
Do you know what I learned? Jim was a teacher at an alternative high school. Jim and I stood there talking about teaching. Before becoming a mom, I taught in the public school system for nearly ten years. I initially was judging Jim based upon his appearance and the environment we were in at the time of our situation. Remember, my thoughts on judging last week? Well, like I said it is human nature and it is hard not at times. Just saying, we’re all imperfect.
I admit that I am not perfect. I make mistakes daily. However, I am perfectly happy being imperfect because His love never ceases because I make mistakes. His grace is never ending. His mercies are new each morning.
The next morning Jim showed up on our doorstep with fresh donuts….enough said.