“Has anyone here ever been in a situation where you needed to be rescued?”
I was sitting in Sunday School yesterday when this question was posed to our class.
Suddenly, an almost forgotten memory sprang to life in my mind as clearly as if it had just happened instead of years ago.
On a chilly and wet autumn night in 1998, I was exhausted, frightened, and in definite need of rescue.
And it came in an absolutely remarkable way.
While I was driving to my parent’s house at about 1:30 in the morning, something under the hood of my tiny GEO Metro seemed to explode and my car sputtered and died on the side of the freeway. (As an aside, while the GEO Metro was pretty much like driving in a one of those tiny half-sized cans of soda, and aforementioned can of soda would probably give you more protection in a car crash, the gas mileage on that thing was INSANELY awesome.)
It was dark, raining, and my car had died in one of the worst possible places. I had no money, no phone, and was on a stretch of road that very few people were traveling that time of night, it was very dark and I was surrounded by open fields and gas refineries, gravel pits and miles from any real help. And even if I walked through the dark and rain to find that help, the only real option I had of finding somewhere open was a seedy strip bar.
Waiting for help in my car also seemed like a gamble because well…I was in one very vulnerable situation and because of that and where I was stranded, I feared that I might as well put a flashing sign above my car that said, “VICTIM HERE!”
I felt the desperate desire for help, but I was also terrified for what kind of ‘help’ would come.
I pleaded to God for help because frankly, I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
I have said many times, both in conversation and in print, that I have never been naturally inclined to be very religious or spiritual. For the last year I have been trying to improve this area of my life. And despite many powerful experiences I have had recently, I still remain someone that has to work quite hard to incorporate many of these things into my life.
Prayer is one of those things.
I’ve always had difficulty praying. It’s not really ever been a stubborn refusal, it just usually never occurred to me to do on my own. I haven’t every really been someone who prayed over things or thought to ask for help from God in most situations. In fact, aside from prayer over meals and those in church or at other church gatherings over my lifetime, I have uttered very few personal cries for help via prayer, and like much of humanity, it was always in a time of desperation when I had no one else to turn to.
What is remarkable to me is that the things that happened in response to those few prayers were absolute, immediate, big and clear to the point that there is simply no possibility for me to make any other choice than to believe that my prayers were answered by a God who not only exists, but also who loves me, knows me, and who has given me many blessings and much protection in my life.
While the number of prayers I have said in my life are not huge, the answers I have been given are huge, indeed.
And this night turned into one of them.
While I was sitting there trying to decide what to do, a large truck with bright, almost blinding light pulled in behind me and I felt a surge of adrenaline when I made out the outline of a man walking toward my car.
My heart was already beating quickly but as this man got closer to my car and stood outside my car window it pounded even harder because now I could see what he looked like.
The picture was not comforting.
He was wearing a ratty tank-top tight jeans, had a shaved head and was covered in tattoos and was covered in grime or dirt or both.
Then I rolled down my window and smelled him.
Waves of very strong body odor, cigarettes and probably a few other things that didn’t exactly add to my confidence, hit my nostrils as he leaned his head down to speak to me.
“You like like you need some help, M’am.”
Before I rolled down my window, I had decided that while I didn’t know if this guy meant any harm, I was just too unsure and scared to accept his help. So, I was going to lie and say that I had a cell phone and called my family, AAA and the police and they were sending out someone to help me at any moment.
Then I actually LOOKED at his face.
“Wait…is your name Tommy?”
He looked taken aback and said, “I go by Tom, but yeah, that’s my name. Have we met?”
For one afternoon.
In the 5th-grade, my twin sister was sent to attend a “special program” (as they were called then) at a different elementary school than mine. I have talked to you about her seizure disorder and the brain damage that she has and that it has gotten so severe she is having a portion in a very important section of her brain taken out. We didn’t even begin to understand this was the problem with her until her late teens. Until then, everyone thought she had purely had emotional and/or psychiatric conditions. (By the way, she will be having her brain surgery on October 9th. I will keep you updated.) So, when she was in 5th-grade the decision was made that while she was quite intelligent, she also had many, many social problems and what we now call “executive function issues”. She needed specific help and the school we were in did not have a program that fit her situation. So, she transferred schools and was put into a class of about 10-kids.
And one day, when I didn’t have school and she did, I went to school with her for the last half of the day to visit.
My sister excitedly introduced me to her class and the teacher pulled an extra desk in for me to sit in.
I noticed a boy with red hair that kept looking back and staring at me.
A little later on, a girl handed me a folded note.
I don’t remember the exact specifics, but it was from the redheaded boy that kept turning around to look at me.
The note said that my name was pretty.
That I was pretty.
That he wished he could buy me a box of chocolate or something else that was pretty like me.
Then he signed the note at the bottom and put a heart next to it.
His name was Tommy.
He was the very first boy in the world to have a crush on me.
And 13-years later he was standing outside of my car in the rain, covered in grime from his job as a mechanic, and smiling as I told him where we had met before.
“I can’t believe it! You were the first girl I had a crush on! I spent the rest of the year hoping you would come back!”
I could almost see a visible uplift in him.
As he stood there beaming at me, I knew it would be safe for me to accept a ride from him. Yes, he was still covered in filth, smelly and not at all what a typical “Knight in Shining Armor” should look like at all. But I could feel his good intent towards me. He helped me out of my car and chatted away happily with nostalgia as we got some things out of my trunk and made sure my car had the emergency lights on and a note in the window with my contact information.
The more he talked, the more I realized how big a deal it was to him that I had not only remembered him after such a brief meeting all those years ago, but that I recognized him.
When we got to my parent’s house, I thanked him for all his help and gave him a hug goodbye.
He took his keys out of his pocket and smiled at me.
” I still can’t believe this. Stuff like this just doesn’t happen, least not to me. I can’t believe that stopping to help someone with their car could end up so…just…cool.”
He gave a little chuckle, shook his head in disbelief, got in his car and drove out into the night.
I am so glad this night happened.
It helped me.
It is continuing to help me.
It will probably keep helping me in moments through my remaining years.
Looking back on it, I think Tommy and I both needed rescue of some kind that night.
I am so glad we got it.