"I'm losing power."
"Well, honey, you are 62. That's what happens."
"No, Patty. I mean your car is losing power. And there's smoke pouring from the back."
Within seconds, Dave and I stood on the highway's shoulder, watching helplessly as my VW became smothered in smoke. So much for a hurried trip to Joplin and back, I thought. I had seen the same thing happen to a car while with Nanette, my step-daughter, in San Diego this past summer. We had pulled over, grabbed Nanette's fire-extinguisher from the back of her vehicle, and helped fight the flames. I knew what to do.
Except, of course, we had no extinguisher -- just a case of Sam's bottled water, but that was in the trunk, and since Dave and I together have about a thimble's worth of mechanic skills, we feared approaching the beast, thinking it could blow at any moment. To add to my woes, not one of the dozens of cars that drove by stopped to help. Actually, I think most accelerated to whiz past us, like we were contagious or something. I knew this "Unsamaritan" behavior happened in New York City, but Fort Scott? I was stunned.
Soon the tow truck arrived, followed by a lone vehicle that pulled in behind us. It was Kyle and Tanner Beckham, offering help.
"Maybe there is hope for humanity, after all," I told my mother, who had come to pick us up. I'm sure her silence meant agreement.
The rest of the day I dwelled on how selfish those other drivers were. In San Diego, Nanette and I had stopped to help someone. Why didn't anyone do the same for me? Not surprisingly, Dave didn't let it affect him at all.
"Maybe they were in a hurry," he answered.
"Well, so were we, but that did us little good," I reminded him. I'm pretty sure his silence meant agreement, too.
My attitude was in need of a little tweaking, and it came later that afternoon when another teacher and I took some students to dinner and a play in Coffeyville. As we unloaded the school bus to eat, I watched my colleague quietly reach into her wallet and hand a student some cash. I asked her about it.
"Oh, poor guy never has any money, so I just help him out a little."
A Samaritan's hand extended. Even the bus driver shared with me that she starts every morning by praying for the students on her early-morning route. Another hand extended.
Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to not only look to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Jesus modeled that behavior for us. He came not to be served, but to serve ... even to death. While agonizing on the cross, Jesus made sure His mother was cared for; He reached out to the thief on the cross next to Him; and He petitioned His Father to forgive those who crucified Him.
Asking ourselves "What can someone do for me?" rather than "What can I do for someone else?" is me-focused and full of pride as opposed to mirroring Christ's other-focused attitude. Every day we are given countless opportunities to serve. My VW disaster made me realize I need to do a better job of recognizing those circumstances when they arise, and, equally important, I need to be a little less judgmental. Hopefully, I will even get to the point where I can be concerned for all those drivers who passed me by instead of thinking of my own needs.
But to be perfectly honest, that one might take a little work.