There are many times in my life I wish I had done something differently. I know hindsight is 20/20, but some things just haunt me. I am not talking about the things we do just about every day, foot-in-mouth slip ups, although those can be regretful as well. I am speaking of life-changing things that stay with us.
Once when I was young, I was visiting my mom in Birmingham, Ala. Her home was at the bottom of a tall hill, and the street on which she lived curved from top to bottom past her drive. It was a rough asphalt street with scattered rock and loose gravel. I was much younger, maybe 15 or 16. I found, somewhere around her house, an old skateboard with steel wheels on a small wooden board.
The idea was to get some real speed going as I gracefully cut back and forth across the street. I had rarely ridden a skateboard to that point, but I was young, invincible and, after all, how hard could it be? The ride part was short lived. I don’t think I made it more than a third of the way when I took a dive into the asphalt. I slid across the surface, and it was not pretty. This was a pretty dumb thing to do.
When I first started driving, I lived in Houston, and I got a job as a delivery driver. The traffic back then seemed just as bad as it is today. I remember one day as I crept along in bumper-to-bumper, slow moving traffic when I looked to my right and saw a lady begin to scream. She began to wave her arms around and scream louder. I could only see from a certain angle down into her car through the back window, but I could see the driver, an elderly man, using a stiffened arm to pull on the right side of the steering wheel and they crept over and up into a driveway just next to them.
The older gentleman must have been experiencing a heart attack, and his wife was frightened and didn’t know what to do. In his valor he was trying to maneuver the car off the road. I don’t know what happened after that; the traffic started to move, and I went with it.
To this very day I regret not stopping to help that couple. I replay the video over and over. That was 30 or 40 years ago, and it still bothers me.
The list of things I wish I had done differently is long, but it doesn’t include things like the skateboard wreck; that was just a dumb idea. It is the things from the heart, the things that have been buried there. It is the life-changing moments, many when I could have stepped up and helped, stepped up and made a difference.
So often today you see news or video stories where a hurt person on a sidewalk or street side was ignored. It is not uncommon for you to see people walking past, talking on their cell phones looking the other way as they go by the person in need.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is exactly what I am talking about. Jesus tells us about a man robbed, beaten and lying on the side of the road. Many walk by him, crossing to the other side of the road to avoid the hassle. The man robbed and beaten was a different race or nationality; stopping would have disturbed their personal schedule and maybe cost them something. But there was the Samaritan, the one who took care of him, paid for additional care and a little extra while he was laid up. Jesus tells us that the Samaritan is whom we should model our lives after. That is the model I want to live by, the one where I make decisions like that every time.
Yep, it can be a hassle and inconvenient to help someone or do something out of your comfort zone. The scabs and imbedded gravel in my palms was painful, but I laugh about it now. That day sitting in traffic could have been nothing more than an aggravated old lady yelling at her husband for not being a good driver or maybe she wanted a shake at the Jack in the Box; I don’t think so but maybe.
I feel I know what was happening that day, and I wish I had helped. I am motivated by that today to not let it happen again. Our past experiences are our ministry. You are uniquely qualified to help others because of the lessons, regrets, pains and accomplishments of your past. I can assure you, I know for a fact, that it is a bad idea to get on a steel wheeled skateboard pointed downhill on an asphalt, gravel-covered road for any reason. I am an expert on that topic. I pray that on that day, many years ago, a Samaritan was passing and helped an elderly woman and her husband. I have to rest on that and God’s grace today, and I do.