The Stranger: A true story
On August 2, 2017, I found myself driving down to the LDS Temple for my last weekend of intense Temple service during the Nauvoo Pageant. It was intense, not because of the work, but more because of the schedule; 3 days home and 4 days away. This led to me having to be careful that I did not over exert myself because of the demands that I had placed on myself by volunteering to serve in that manner. It really was the most amazing experience and I learned so much and felt a peace and joy that I had never known. It is definitely difficult to describe.
But, this is not what I wanted to write. I want to write about this particular day and this particular drive. I was more than half way there when I saw 2 cars on the side of the road. Since there were people there, I figured that they did not need me to stop and help. (Not sure I would have anyway…) However, about 1/4 mile from that scene was a man walking and fairly limping along the side of the road and I thought that he might be with the two cars going to get help…so after some long, but quick thought, I decided to stop and help if I could.
It turned out that he was not with the 2 cars I had seen but he needed a ride. He threw his bag in the back seat, and I remember thinking, “I hope he doesn’t have a bomb in there.” I put my large cooler bag on the console between the front seats to have at least “something” between us. I remember sniffing to see if he smelled and I remember being a little nervous that I now had a stranger in my car, who was a man and who most definitely could have taken advantage of me.
As I pulled out onto the road and gathered speed, he told me his story. He said that his wife had died in Missouri, (we were presently in Iowa headed toward Missouri,) and he had decided, at the encouragement of a friend, to go work as a “day laborer” job up in Minnesota. He had recently finished the job and told me that two people had offered him a ride into the nearest town so he could get a bus or something back to Missouri. It was about 25 miles away and so he said sure. He told me that about midway to the town, the people pulled a gun on him and took his $900.00 away leaving him stranded by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. He told me that he had been walking ever since. Mind you, I have no idea how far into Minnesota he was, but where I picked him up was at least a 4-hour drive just to the border. I was so taken back by his story that I immediately called my friend and police chief and told him the story and handed the phone to the guy to see if there were anything my friend could do to help the situation once the stranger got home. They talked for about 5 minutes.
I was horrified! I instantly thought he must be thirsty and hungry. I had food in my bag because I always take food with me because of my food allergies and water in the car…but I had no plate or utensils for him to eat with, nor a cup to drink from.
Then I remembered that my husband gave someone a ride to Church on Sunday and that person had given him a bottle of water which remained unopened in the console of the car. I grabbed it and gave it to the guy and then I scoured my brain to think what I might have in the bag he could eat with his hands. I remembered that the previous day I had bought a smoked pork chop to take with me on my trip, so I reached in and gave it to him. He was famished and just about ate the bone itself.
I then wondered to myself if I could buy him a bus ticket so he could get home without walking the rest of the way, but I was not headed toward any bus station…I offered anyway and he said, “I would much rather have a room so I can take a shower and get cleaned up and get a good night’s rest.” I decided I could do this and when we came to the town I was passing through to get to where I wanted to go, I stopped at a Super 8 Hotel and bought him a room for the night. I don’t want to go into all the details because this story is, and will be, long anyway but suffice it to say that he got his room, and after speaking to the owner of the motel, telling him what the situation was, I returned to my car incredibly nervous that the motel owner would not guard my card carefully. I was very nervous.
I continued on to the Temple worried and really trying not to beat myself up over the situation. I called the hotel owner back and asked him about the cost and he said that the only other cost there could be was if the guy destroyed the room and smoked in it and then, I would be charged another $300.00. I wondered out loud to God, “why is it so nerve wracking to do good?” I really hoped that wouldn’t happen. By the time I got to the Temple, I had managed to calm myself down and remember that whatever happened in this situation, it was in God’s hands.
As I was getting ready to go into the service in the Temple, I was still thinking very much on the situation I had gotten myself into. I was so worried and kept praying about it when in the middle of my thoughts came the inspired words of the Holy Ghost: “the Good Samaritan.” I quickly recalled the story of “the Good Samaritan,” though at that time did not remember all the details of the story, and at that moment, could not look it up. I felt calmer.
After I was done with the service, and getting dressed, some of the words to the song, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” popped into my head. Here again, my fears were assuaged and I was able to put to rest my fears and from there move on to my next task at the Temple. As I was performing my tasks in the Temple another thought popped into my head, this one is in Hebrews 13:2. This particular scripture really sealed the deal for me and helped calm me from my worries.
I am not so well versed in the scriptures to remember them the way they are written, so when I got home and looked up each of the scriptures, I was completely blown away by them: Here was the first one I received,
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said,He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Then a little later, after I was finished with the service and was changing, some of the words to this song, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” came to my mind: (The whole song applies, so I have quoted it in its entirety.)
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
- A poor, wayfaring Man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer nay.
I had not pow’r to ask his name,
Whereto he went, or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love; I knew not why.
- Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
And ate, but gave me part again.
Mine was an angel’s portion then,
For while I fed with eager haste,
The crust was manna to my taste.
- I spied him where a fountain burst
Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
The heedless water mocked his thirst;
He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
I ran and raised the suff’rer up;
Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
Dipped and returned it running o’er;
I drank and never thirsted more.
- ‘Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest,
Then made the earth my bed and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
- Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment—he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.
- In pris’n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor’s doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him ‘mid shame and scorn.
My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, “I will!”
- Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
“Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”
Text: James Montgomery, 1771-1854 Music: George Coles, 1792-1858, alt.
Then, a little while later, while I was still in the Temple, the words to this scripture floated through my mind: Hebrews 13:2
2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
It never really crossed my mind during the entire exchange that I was doing the Lord’s errand. I just was trying to figure out a way to help the guy. It did cross my mind that I had put myself in danger. I had no idea what was in his bag that he threw in the back of my car, nor did I know if he carried a gun and would pull it out on me. The most worried I got was when I had given my card number to the guy at the hotel.
It was to my great sadness when I called the hotel owner the next day that I found out that the guy had lied to me. He had asked the hotel owner where the dollar store was and the liquor store was and bought not only food, but alcohol and cigarettes and completely left the room a mess. I was devastated and truthfully wondered if the hotel owner had decided to take advantage of me as well. He said he would have to charge my card another $300.00 for the cleanup. It was not a good situation and I could have gone to check although it would have tightened up my busy schedule entirely, so I did not go to check. It was now that the 4th and final scripture came to my mind: Matthew 5:44:
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
What I finally decided about the whole thing was that I had done what I had done with no thought of myself or reward, only to bring relief to a person struggling. While I was “burned” in the process, in the end, I chose to look at the whole thing as something the Lord wanted me to know. Granted, I put myself in danger, but other things happened that probably kept me safe. The first being that I had a Police Chief friend that I called on the spot to help the guy. Again, it was not for my benefit I did this, but the act of doing so, probably alerted the guy that now a police chief, who knew me personally and well, also knew I had a strange man in my car and he had talked to him. How might this innocent and seemingly “helpful” move, in and of itself, have been an inspiration to “separate” the guy from his possible evil intentions? We will never know.
The next thing was my exerted effort not to castigate myself for putting not only myself in danger, but Mike’s and my finances in jeopardy based solely on trust in the goodness of human nature. Here again, the Lord helped me resolve that I would put all of it in His hands. Although it continued to press on me throughout my service, the Lord was generous and kind in sending me little “graces” or “tender mercies” of thoughts coming from His Holy Word. These sustained me throughout my time of service. And finally, when I got home in the evening and was able to read them knowing the full context of the events of that afternoon, I could see He chose to encourage me that I had done the right thing no matter the outcome.
I would not have chosen the outcome and was greatly saddened by it, but I was sadder for the man. We lost $400.00 total as a result, but he lost much more. I would do as the Lord directed and pray for those who despitefully used me…
And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.