Here is a story. Because this happened twenty-five years ago or longer, I may have forgotten some of the details. Forgive me. Details here really don’t matter. So here goes. I was a volunteer with our church youth group back in the early nineties (and many years before that) and was driving a van of our youth to Six Flags amusement park in St. Louis. I can’t remember if more than one van took that trip, but, I do remember the one I was driving had a flat tire in, of all places, East St. Louis. For those of you who may not know, East St. Louis has many wonderful people living there and I’m sure many would have come to our aid. However, my skin pigmentation left me feeling a little uneasy in a neighborhood where the majority of residents were African-American and we were even advised by a really nice African-American young lady that we should go back to our van and stay there. The problem was we could not loosen the lug nuts on our flat tire. I tried. Another youth leader, Mark Bolser, tried. Nothing. I thought I was a fairly strong man. Mark, who was and is even bigger than I am, thought he was stronger. We got nowhere. After a while we just started praying for someone to help us out. We had pulled off of the interstate and made sure the kids were safe and then we waited. This was a time when cell phones were about the size of a horses leg and none of us could afford to carry them anyway. All we could do was pray and wait thinking a patrol officer would finally see our emergency. Then something very strange happened. An older gentleman in a station wagon pulled in behind our stranded van and told us he had seen us from a distance and decided to turn around and offer assistance. We explained that we could not loosen the lug nuts and would need a tow. We almost laughed when he took our lug wrench and began trying to loosen the seemingly welded tire. We stopped laughing when he succeeded. How in the name of Firestone had he managed this? All of us were thankful and Mark and I were a little humbled that a man twice our age and half our size had out manned us when it came to lug nut removal. He was the lug nut champion in our books and before long we had our tire changed and were back on the road.
Over the years this story has come up from time to time and I can’t help but think that our rescuer was something supernatural. In fact, we tried to find his name in the phone book the next day to send him a card of thanks. He was not listed. We decided the man was an angel. (Cue “Twilight Zone” music).
We needed people that night. We need people all the time. Lisa and I have had many, many experiences in our marriage where we simply needed people’s help. When we are home, that need is met readily. Between our family, our friends and our church, there are always people to come to our aid in an emergency. That is a comforting thought. While we are on the road traveling however, the need is even greater and fear of not finding the help we need amplified. There are too many examples of people – complete strangers – coming to our assistance while on the road. We will never forget the two young men just outside Tucumcari, New Mexico who stopped to offer help when our previous fifth wheel trailer had a blow out in the middle of the night as we made our way home from Kingman, Arizona. Lisa and I were scared to death and had no phone signal. They pulled in behind our camper and managed to call for help on our behalf. We still do not know why they had phone service and we did not. Maybe they were angels as well. (Again, cue up “Twilight Zone” music).
We have now been here in Cambridge for two weeks and already have had the need for people. Our trip up here from Owensboro went smooth until we were just outside Zanesville, Ohio – about twenty-five miles from our destination. I noticed our temperature gauge spike to over-heating levels and we managed to pull into a gas station and call for help. While waiting for the tow truck, a man overheard my conversation on the phone and offered to take a look at our truck. We needed coolant and a lot of it and he assisted us in getting back on the road and finally into the Spring Valley Campground here in Cambridge.
We just need people. Thanks to more good people, our truck is now at a garage in Lowell, Ohio awaiting repair. People, whom we barely knew, heard of our truck problems and connected us to a nice mechanic fifty miles from our campground. We needed good people to connect us to good people. While waiting for Lisa’s dad, Vernon, to bring our other vehicle here to Cambridge, we needed the help of more good people to haul our sorry asses around town to get groceries and get Lisa to work. There are good people everywhere we have been in our lives and many, many times – we have needed their goodness.
The saying, “No man is an island” is certainly true. Our lives impact other lives and their lives impact ours. We live in a culture that advocates self-reliance and a “do it yourself” mentality. Sorry – but that is another Madison Avenue lie that is not only a falsehood, but attempts to tear down one of the sustaining fabrics of our society. That is, neighbors and community, brotherhood, sisterhood, friends and kindness toward one another.
Lisa and I have learned to wave the white flag and admit that we need others in our lives. We have friends that have gone out of their way to serve us and help us and minister to us and simply be kind to us. Steve and Michelle Luck are friends who, like us, are often on the road traveling from place to place. We know we can rely on them if we need something. They know – they can rely on us. We have friends at home and friends on the road that we rely on – people that we need.
There is a Christian concept known as “resting in the Lord.” It is one that is not often discussed in Christian education and one that I only discovered very late in my life. But, it changed mine and my family’s understanding of God and His grace. Basically, it is the wonderful thought that we can rest, that is: completely depend upon God’s finished work in Christ on our behalf. When Jesus spoke the words, “It is finished”, on the cross, He was saying the work is done – there is nothing more to do or say. All of us, as His children, are now commanded to rest in His finished work. We can’t add to it nor can we take away from it. IT IS FINISHED!
Lisa and I have learned that we can also rest in our friends and the good people God has placed in our lives. He must have known we were going to need people in all the places He has sent us in our travels. From Pennsylvania to California and everywhere in between – God has placed good people in our lives to give us the help He knew we would need. He knows that the McFarland’s are idiots about many things so He places people along the way to do what we can’t do. We rest knowing there are people we can rely on – not only our family, but complete strangers will be placed into our path and get us where we need to go.
I consider myself a man of faith. But, I am pragmatic in my faith. Talk of supernatural things tends to cause my eyes to roll. And yet, all the experiences Lisa and I have had in our travels where people just showed up to provide us help – has me thinking.
You know? Maybe that man in East St. Louis was an angel.
Love, Steve and Lisa!