The light turned green and my foot did what it always did. Shortly into my launch through the intersection, my eyes alerted me of the change in atmosphere approaching not far down the street. What was cloudy from my launch was becoming blurred in droplets very quickly up the road. I would be immersed in rain in just a few seconds.
This rain was going to be particularly heavy. The drops were spreading across my windshield and hitting loud enough to challenge my loud music for the primary attention of my hearing. The wipers were called into service, and my foot released from the gas. That’s when my gaze went to the sidewalk, and I noticed a woman carrying a girl in her arms, walking courageously through the storm.
My heart instantly leaped to the forefront of my mind and reminded me of a passage in the Bible. Matthew 5:41-42 said, “… if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Luke 10:25-37 told me that I needed to be the neighbor that saw the stranger on the road and took care of her and her child. It wouldn’t be a long ride. What was the harm? … Then, carnality brought up a well-known fact.
How would it be interpreted if a random Black man pulled up next to a Latina and her child and offered a ride? Haven’t less prepared women been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery and raped in moments like these? Can she trust that you are a helper and not a hunter? Is it appropriate for you to assume she needs or even wants your help just because it’s raining?
My morality was suddenly in debate with itself. Would it be more appropriate to leave her alone in her peace, or more appropriate to offer her assistance? If I pulled over, how would I communicate with her if she only spoke Spanish? How would I offer peace of mind to her – that I’m only a good Samaritan wishing to get her home dry rather than wet? What if she was the dangerous one, and I was being naïve in letting her into my peaceful day? What about the pandemic going on?
I watched as the hood of my car passed her. Time froze for half a second to let me gauge the situation. She was older than me, and the child was no older than seven, yet she carried her. She caressed her baby’s hair as she pressed onward, reluctant to get wet. I could see the daunting situation looming over her in her expression. What lady wants her hair to get wet? It would mean she would have to clean her and her daughter’s hair after they dried off.
I wanted to stop, I truly did, but the half a second had passed, and I was very clearly in front of her. “U-turn!” my heart cried, but my brain could not logically think of a way to not make it seem creepy. I had this inclination to help before, and I was dismissed back then. Why should I bother experiencing it again?
There it was. That subtle regret of not knowing women as well as I thought I did. Most will say they want help, but when you move to help, suddenly you’re in the wrong. It was just like when I went to visit my boy’s girlfriend just to make sure she was doing well in her new city, Austin, TX.
We ventured through Rainey Street so that I could enjoy the older crowd of partiers in the capital city. It was my first time not being on 6th street, and it was quaint. It was one of those areas that could easily become the next 6th street, but was in its early stages. It needed more funding and more businesses to become something greater. Regardless, we ate and drank and I enjoyed her newfound discovery.
We were heading back to the car when we stumbled across a man and a woman arguing, with another male friend standing close by. The woman was in the one man’s face, berating him and pressing her body against him as if she was going to sucker punch him. He seemed to be nonchalant, walking towards wherever they were going, but she kept insisting he walk through her and her pushing.
We had just passed the three of them when the man shoved the woman and she fell. Not knowing if the man was going into a rage, I stepped between them, and asked him to stop. Imagine my surprise to see the woman rise to her feet, dust herself off a little, and grab my arms to lower them.
“We’re good. No, we’re good,” she said as she moved me out of the way.
Then, she went back to the man to antagonize him further. He had already shoved her once, but she removed her protection, and carried on without it anyway, not knowing if he would escalate further and actually hit her.
I was appalled by the lack of sense in the situation. The third man didn’t look like he was going to stop them. In that short time, I had sized him up to be a spectator only, and would probably only stop his friend after he had given her a bloody nose or busted lip. He wouldn’t do anything before cops had to be involved. Despite this, she yelled at him and kept walking into him as all three kept walking away from us.
It made me remember of another time, when I was in a club, dancing amongst friends and friends of friends. We were all in a circle, and everyone was enjoying their high or tipsiness to the blaring music. The only one who didn’t seem to understand that was one of the Black men in front of me.
The women were all taking their turns occupying the space we had created by the size of our circle. There were lots of twerking and hands grabbing butts. It was fine as long as people were respectful and all women, but this one man, this nuisance of a man, kept acting like he wasn’t understanding that.
He had one woman in his sights, and every time she swayed her hips even a little, he was grabbing at her and trying to pull her towards him. One time, she stopped and removed his hands. Another time, she stopped, and creeped away from him. After watching him fail to get the message, I moved him back and went to stand between the two of them. Imagine my surprise when a swarm of hands stopped me instead, including the woman who was being harassed.
“That’s my boyfriend. It’s okay,” she explained in his defense.
“Ey, man, you need to chill,” he said with a drunken attitude.
Here I was, trying to defend her from a man who didn’t seem to get that she didn’t want to be touched or grabbed, but allowed to dance freely with the other girls. Yet, it was me being restrained from stepping in. I was the guy who wanted the man to read her rejections appropriately and be respectful, but, somehow, I was out of line.
These are the moments that always come back to my mind when I think about stepping in to help someone. So, though my hands had slid to the left of the steering wheel, to help me make a U-turn, ultimately, I kept driving away. I couldn’t help wondering if my kindness would be blocked again; that another woman would stop me from being a good Samaritan.
In my eyes, I was a nice guy trying to make sure a woman and her child got home safely and dry, but in her eyes, I could’ve been a predator trying to bait them into being kidnapped. My heart sank as I looked in the rearview mirror, dry as the desert, while they were getting soaked in the rain. I hate the world I live in.
I hate that so many men have manipulated and abused women that I have to be extremely cautious when I approach a woman anywhere. I hate that wanting to help can be perceived as being presumptuous or invasive. I hate that past good Samaritans have been assaulted and even killed for trying to help. I hate that a Black man approaching anyone other than a Black woman can cause alarm. The ways of the world remain wicked. I shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes, I still am.
Sometimes, I just want to be a nice, good man, and that’s it. I want to be a vessel for Jesus Christ to a world hurting, alone, and afraid. I don’t want to be seen as intrusive. I don’t want to be seen as presumptuous. I don’t want to be seen as patriarchy on display. I don’t want to be perceived as a man oppressing a woman. But no matter what I do, there will always be people that will shut me out, stop me from helping, and remain in their circumstance. Some prefer to be without help, regardless of whether or not it presents itself.
We always assume that the priest and the Levite in the story from Luke 10 are evil men for overlooking the bleeding man on the side of the road. Jesus paints them as unneighborly, and perhaps they are, but it is hard to read that story and not feel like the Levite and the priest at times. Who knows what the Levite and the priest had witnessed or experienced before reaching that bloody person on the side of the road? Who knows what was spoken to these men before they made the decision they made?
The tale insinuates that it doesn’t matter who stumbles upon who, you help. Perhaps, I should’ve just done that. Perhaps, I should’ve just slowed down and offered them a ride, but instead, I drove away. The Lord offered me a chance to be kind and I rejected it out of fear of being misjudged. A split second can be the difference between a cautionary tale and a good example. I could’ve easily been the good neighbor, and I wanted to be, but I wasn’t.
Should I have just offered her help and accepted the possibility of misjudgment? Should I have given her the opportunity to accept or reject me? What if I had terrified her by slowing down next to her and her child? Would it still be right to unjustly terrify this woman because I deemed it a moment to help? Perhaps, I am overthinking it, but how do you tell?
I once had a moment where this young woman had lost $250 to pay her rent, and $250 was the only money I had in my savings. I wanted to help, but I couldn’t let go of the $250. I couldn’t convince myself that I could survive without it, even though I had exactly what she needed. I always wonder if that was a missed opportunity from God. How many other opportunities to be a blessing will I miss? Was the woman and the child in the rain another missed opportunity?
My lesson from this experience is to be like Christ. Offer salvation, or rescue, and let the target of that offer reject or accept it. God does not force Himself on anyone, unless it is absolutely time to, and only He knows those moments. Since I am just a man, and prone to being presumptuous and incorrect, I will merely offer my assistance, and let them decide if they want it or not. As long as no one is about to die or get hurt, what’s the harm in it?
How would you have approached that situation? How would you have responded? Have you ever had your offer to help rejected? Have you ever missed an opportunity to help? Have you ever rejected help from a stranger? Why did you reject them? How do you perceive whether a helper is genuine or being manipulative and conniving? The more experiences we compile, the better we know how to respond. If you think I made the right or wrong decision, let me know in the comments.
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