Strangers, Mamas, and True Hospitality
It was terrible timing. We were just 15 minutes from the church where we were speaking that night and we were running late. We were in the “turn here, go two-tenths of a mile and bear to the right, then make an immediate left” part of the GPS directions. We’d just driven through and grabbed some fast food on the run. When I opened my sandwich the phone rang. “We’re okay,” he started. That’s the way you start a call in our family when there’s been a catastrophe, but no one is dead. Uh oh. “The car died.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m not sure. Somewhere between near …”
And we had to go. We had just barely enough time to set up and speak. Thankfully, there were two of them together. Matt’s big brother took off work to ride with him to meet us at his new college. We gave him the phone numbers of friends that lived within a couple of hours, posted what we knew to our Facebook page and did what we had to. It was awful stepping up there to speak, knowing the boys (They’d laugh at me calling them that, but they’ll always be our boys!) were on the side of the road over 160 miles away and not even knowing if they had anything to eat or drink. “If you can’t get any help, we’ll race over there just as soon as we’re done, but we probably can’t leave before 10.”
I prayed someone would help them.
Thankfully, they had landed next to a family farm. The men of the family came down and tried all sorts of things to get them going, including pulling the car up a hill with a tractor to try to roll start it. Nothing worked and Matt and John Calvin were in despair. The car, bought after a long summer earning money, was Matt’s first and he’d only had it a week.
They talked about how they wished they’d stopped for food earlier when they first talked about it. After awhile, a long car purred down the hill and stopped next to them, a little elderly lady rolled down her window and said, “I’m Aunt Helen. I brought you some food.”
We allow each of our children to hate one food — they don’t have to eat that one at all, but must eat a reasonable portion of anything else. Matt’s has always been mayonnaise. He can’t stand the stuff. When they’d slurped some ice cold sweet tea, they opened their sandwiches and took a bite. Matthew turned to John, “You know what? This sandwich has about three tablespoons of mayonnaise on it and it tastes wonderful.”
When we went to pick up his car, I had to go thank Aunt Helen face to face. She stopped me with a hand on my arm and tears in her eyes and said, “You don’t understand. Back in March, my son was moving back to Virginia from Denver, Colorado. A huge snowstorm came and they started turning people back to Denver. In the confusion, his huge U-Haul truck ran into the ditch. It was cold and snowing and no one could even get to him to help. An elderly couple walked down from their house and took him in – fed him and kept him safe and warm. I was thrilled to be able to do something for your boys like someone had done for mine.” Before long, I had tears in my eyes, too.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Thank you, Aunt Helen. Thank you, thank you, thank you!