I'm a volunteer at a museum, and one afternoon while I was doing research, I came across a picture of a German woman whose city had been heavily bombed. I had seen plenty of pictures like this before, but the look of anguish in her eyes leapt across the years and moved my heart. I knew I couldn't do anything for that woman, and yet that feeling of compassion stayed with me all day.
That night, a friend and I were driving home along a very busy interstate highway. It was late, I'd had a busy day, and I was really tired. Suddenly we flashed past a disabled car, and I saw the driver standing practically on the edge of the highway, waving for help. I saw in his face something like I'd seen in that woman's face in the photograph - a kind of "please see me, please help me." I had to stop.
Once when he was asked "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told a parable that has become famous as the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). In it, a man is beaten and robbed, and two people pass by him, instead of helping him. A third man not only stops but makes sure the man gets to a place where he can be cared for. Jesus' message is that helping and caring for others is what it means to be a good neighbor.
As I walked along the highway back toward the man, I was thinking of the second part of the story - the part that comes after you stop to give aid. Because I'm a woman, I would normally have hesitated to stop on a dark highway at night to help a stranger, and as the man approached, I could see that he was taller and a lot stronger than I am. Yet I wasn't afraid. The fact that I had a friend with me helped me feel more confident. But there was something more going on inside. A conviction that for some reason this man needed my help specifically.
When I met Paolo, the first thing he said was, "I don't speak good English." Since my job sometimes involves dealing with people who don't speak good English, I had to smile a little inside. That was why I had to stop. He explained his situation, and it seemed best to get him to a safe place where we could arrange for a tow truck.
We hopped into my car, and a few miles later we were at a gas station. Although they didn't have a tow truck, the woman there called a towing company for us. She handed him the phone - and he handed it to me. I explained everything, and the driver said he would be there in 15 minutes. I left Paolo at the gas station where I knew he would be safe, with help on the way.
As I drove home, I realized that I was no longer tired or struggling to stay awake. I remembered a statement from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. This book is the definitive work on her discovery, Christian Science. It explains that there is a spiritual law of God that will help and literally heal people, no matter what their need is. It lays out principles of spiritual healing that anyone can apply to life, health, relationships.
The sentence that came to mind that night was this one: "In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all..." (page 206). I had definitely been blessed by my encounter with Paolo.
But it wasn't just about no longer being sleepy behind the wheel during the rest of the drive home. The encounter had reminded me that God is divine Love, a Love that always meets people's needs, even along a dark and busy highway. The "scientific relation of God to man" - that word man, meaning all people - is a relation in which no one can ever be separated from divine Love, which created each one of us. Love loves each one of us - whether we speak English flawlessly or not, whether we are rich or poor, male or female. God loved Paolo and me and had provided Paolo help that was appropriate for his needs. And helping him had helped me, too.
Behold, the heaven
and the heaven of heavens
is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is....
He doth execute the judgment
of the fatherless and widow,
and loveth the stranger,
in giving him food and raiment.
Love ye therefore the stranger.
Deuteronomy 10:14, 18, 19