We took off about 7am. Our plan was to have me drive in the morning while the rest of the family got a few more hours of sleep. Despite the well-laid plans, nobody slept in the morning. But, that didn’t stop me from swapping out after a few hours of driving. Our children watched Jungle Book.
Caleb asked me, “What are necessities?” (As in the “Bare necessities”)
“They are things you need to survive. Is air a necessity?” I questioned to confirm understanding.
“Yes,” Caleb replied.
Very good… there’s hope for him… let’s get a bit trickier…
“Is mom a necessity?” I asked.
“Yes…. Otherwise, we couldn’t be born.”
“hmmm….” He looked thoughtful…. “I don’t know.”
Admittedly, a bit hard to hear… but that is the nature of truth…
We stopped at a rest stop in Oregon. Tenille and my mom packed all the ingredients to make “Kim Bap”. This is a Korean-style Sushi Roll with Beef, egg, spinach, carrot, rice, radish, etc…. It is the staple backpacking/road-trip food. It might be the size of the bite-size cut rolls (about the size of McNuggets), but it’s nearly impossible to eat just a reasonable amount. I’m always WAY overstuffed when I see a big tower of Kim Bap.
At the rest stop, Tenille pointed out some ladies standing outside the bathroom holding a sign – “Stranded”. There was a young girl with them – maybe 5 or 6 years old. Tenille apparently talked to them and got the scoop. They are on their way back to Arizona, but their fuel pump busted. Their car is in the shop, and they need enough money to pay for the repairs so they can get back to their home. Gas Pump was $130. I was a bit reluctant.
A few months ago, I was approached by a haggard lady in the Barnes and Noble parking lot. I was with Caleb. She told me that her car was out of gas and she needed some money because she need to get to Mountlake Terrace. She didn’t really ask for the money. She told me this story as if I owed her and she had returned to collect on a debt.
No problem. “Where’s your car?”
She pointed to an old white sedan in the parking lot. “OK. Let’s meet at the Chevron across the street and I’ll fill it up for you.”
“It’s out of gas. I can’t.”
“Oh… how were you planning on filling it up?”
“I don’t know! I guess I have to go buy one of those gas cans….”
“OK… come with me. Let’s go to the Chevron. I’ll get you a gas can and some gas.”
Then she got angry with me. “I ain’t getting in no car with you! I don’t even know you! There’s no way I’m getting in your car.”
That hurt my feelings a bit. Comfortable enough to ask me for some money, but not comfortable enough to get in my car. I suppose I could understand. I could be a kidnapper of haggard, old women only pretending to be a nice dad buying math books for my 6 year old child. My son could have just been a temporary prop to lure old women that needed gas money… Then before they knew it, my trap would snap around them – they’d be baptized into the Mormon church and canning peaches for their neighbors.
I digress. I don’t fault her for not wanting to get in a car with a stranger. I think it was just the tone with which she chastised me – it left a tender scar. It was so accusatory.
“OK, then… why don’t you just walk over there, and I’ll meet you over there. I’ll get you some gas and a gas tank.” I tried to calm her politely in my best non-kidnapper voice.
“What? So you can drive off on me? This is such a waste of my time. I’m not going to walk all the way over there then have you drive off!” And she walked off while mumbling something unsavory.
Caleb and I continued to our car and replayed together what had just happened. The main principles were:
1. We should always try to help those that are in need. It would have cost $30-$50 to fill up her tank. That’s not a lot of money to get to be a hero to someone in need.
2. We’re not obligated to help people exactly in the way they ask.
An interesting experience, but a bit unpleasant. So when Tenille informed me of these poor lady’s plight with their stranded story, a small bitter taste of the gas-lady experience regurgitated in my mouth. With that said, we should always try to help (See Principle 1). Again, $130 is not a lot of money to get to be a hero…
I approached them with Tenille at my side. I didn’t want to be accused of any weird impropriety with these ladies. “My wife tells me that your car is in the shop and you need some money to get it out of the shop, so you can head back to Arizona?”
“Yeah” Both of them chimed in then started in about how they need to get back to their home.”
“Where’s the shop?”
“About 6 miles away.”
“How did you get here?”
“My dad dropped us off.”
At this, I must have raised an eyebrow. I knew my heart sank a bit… This is not going down a good path. Red flags are waving everywhere, but I plowed forward. “If you want to take us to the shop, we’d be willing to pay for your repairs so you can get home.”
“Well – my dad took it to the shop and I’m not exactly sure where the shop is.”
Hmm…. I’m at a bit of a loss…. What did they think was going to happen when they held a sign at a rest stop saying they were “Stranded”. After a bit of an awkward pause, she continued, “I can call my dad and see if I can get the address of the shop…”
“OK… “ I replied. I gave Tenille a half-smile.
A few minutes later, she returned… “He’s not answering…. and this is totally lame because you’re the second person to offer fixing our car… “
I saw the little girl sitting against the wall of the bathroom building in her dirty dress. She seemed like she was the daughter of the lady who was doing most of the talking. We gave them a dollar and wished them good luck with their car. In my heart of hearts, I wish we could have driven them to a shop, paid for their repairs, and watched them happily drive off toward Arizona. It would have been much more satisfying than paying a dollar for a half-baked story and watching the mis-education of an innocent girl.