On minivans, Starbucks, and stranger-danger

“You’re driving us home, and I don’t even know your name!”

Such was the voice from the backseat this weekend.

I was on my way home from a few days spent with a friend, two hours from where I live. I stopped at a Starbucks halfway, grabbing a coffee and planning on an hour of writing time before driving the last bit home.

There was a van in the parking lot, sitting awkwardly across three parking spaces. Inside Starbucks, a lady was buying a hot chocolate for her daughter as her husband headed next door to find a phone book. They were the owners of the currently non-functioning minivan.

I ordered my latte–my first in three months–and pulled out the computer, settled in the earbuds…and didn’t turn on the music. Maybe they wanted to use my computer to look up a place to call. I could offer to help in that way, at least.

Then I glanced out at my car. Covered in winter salt and spray, with a duffel and cooler in the backseat. But it could legally hold five people. I was one person. It was 5 pm. Maybe they lived out my way, an hour east?

I pulled out the earbuds and asked the lady how far it was to their home. “Over an hour south of here.” She told me. They’d come up for their anniversary dinner. They didn’t know the area, it was Sunday…they just needed to get home.

“What city?”

It took about sixty seconds to google the route and confirm that I could make the round trip in under four hours. The weather, the weekday, the don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry…I’d been there. I could count four or five trips that featured I and my family as stranded travelers. I was familiar with those moments, and I remembered the blessing of the strangers who had helped us along the way.

It quickly became one of those moments where God pointed…and I was able to follow.

We exchanged names about fifteen minutes down the road, laughing at how unconventional it all was. We talked about jobs, family, cars, football…eventually I said goodbye to them in front of a small house in a little snowy town in the middle of nowhere.

Then I called my family, who had been expecting me home by now. My dad assumed that I knew these people. It took a few tries to explain that no, I honestly had never met them before. Yes, I drove them over an hour away. Yes, I volunteered. No, I wasn’t nervous.

Should I have been nervous? Probably. The man was double my weight, and I’m no cupcake. I’m surprised he fit in my car. Our destination was a rural area, and we arrived there an hour after dark. Did I take precautions? Yes. I charged up my phone, and texted my sister that I’d call her in an hour and a half. Did it come out okay? Obviously.

But it was hard to balance the concern of my parents with the satisfaction of having helped someone. I was thrilled to be able to do it. But the what-if’s and you-should-have’s and asterisks of being the good Samaritan are still leaving me muddled.  Last night I had an opportunity and an obvious nudge from God. This morning I have a story that seems risky at best and reckless at worst. Maybe I’m foolish. Maybe I’m naive.

But I’d do again.


One comment on “On minivans, Starbucks, and stranger-danger

  1. hownottokillyourparents says:

    When I was in college, I had a couple similar good-samaritan moments in the city. I’d get home and Dad would say, “I am very proud of you for being so kind, but I am very irritated with you for being so risky.” I think it’s one of those yin-yang deals. And, personally, I think we’d all be better off with a little extra naivete in the world.

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