It was a gorgeous Sunday late morning with a blue sky and not as cold as some weekends. I was walking to my car after my shift at the market with Bagel Joy.
As I approached my car there was a Mercedes behind me parked at an odd angle and all I could think was “Thank goodness that crazy driver didn’t hit my car!” As I started my vehicle and looked in the mirrors to begin pulling away, a man approached my driver’s side window. He was a little older, maybe in his early 70’s and I rolled my window down a bit to hear what he needed to say.
“My name is Fred and that’s my car parked behind yours. I have neuropathy in my feet. I started out to go shopping today and as I was driving the neuropathy kicked in. I knew I wasn’t safe to be on the road, and, as you can see, I barely made it to the curb.”
At this point, I became even more grateful that he hadn’t actually hit my car! This was quite the reasoning for the parking job. Neuropathy is an inability to feel your toes and/or fingers.
Fred continued: “I live about a mile and a half down the road. Is there any way you could drive me in my car back to my house?”
I am female. As a female we have learned that we don’t get into situations with men who are strangers that include secluded spaces, including their vehicles. I was skeptical. But I also knew that his car had been there for a while (I had wondering about the poor parking job earlier in my shift). And there was a ring of truth in his story.
I was tempted to say no. But something whispered to me. “Hey. Didn’t you want to know the community better? Aren’t you out here showing your pride and your clergy status for all the world to see? Do you really mean it all or are you just pretending?”
When I worked in Winchester with the homeless I learned to read people’s stability fairly well. Fred seemed stable. I also knew that if I was getting in a car with someone, I needed a friend on the outside who was close by and knew what I was doing – and that this conversation happened so the person I was transporting knew that someone was looking out for me. So I texted one of my market buddies, told her the name and address where I would be, and said if she didn’t hear from me in 30 minutes to call my cell.
I got in Fred’s car and drove him home. He shared his story about his struggle with neuropathy. He talked about is family and his late wife. He talked about living in the area and his frustration about the shopping that day. I learned a lot. But what I mostly learned as I pondered the situation on my way home is that we all have choices about interacting with the world around us.
We can ignore.
Or we can CHOOSE to engage.
We can talk about justice.
Or we can DO justice.
We can live in a bubble away from the world.
Or we can BE community.
I wonder as you look around if there are any Fred’s out there needing a little TLC from you. What are you going to do about that?
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