“Oh no, God, please don’t let it break down now,” I moaned as the car sputtered down the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Deep in the middle of the Pocono Mountains, my Dodge Omni began losing power. Miraculously, it managed to limp along until it reached the tollbooth.
By the time the two turnpike employees pushed my broken down car to the side parking lot, my codependent victim mentality kicked into overdrive. Why me, God? Why did this happen to me at night and so far from home?
The small, bleak turnpike office offered little comfort as I waited for road service. In the same room, two African-American women sat and waited. They also appeared distressed.
I turned to the two dejected women and asked. “What happened, did your car break down too?”
They took turns explaining. “We left Camden this morning to visit relatives in North Jersey, but we had trouble reading the map. Somehow we ended up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.”
They drove most of the day, spent all their money on lunch, gas, and tolls. Eventually, they ran out of gas and cash.
“What are you going to do? How will you get home?”
“Well, a couple hours ago, we called our cousin in New Jersey. He’s supposed to bring us some money.”
“What! A couple of hours ago and you’re still sitting here?” In my typical take-charge manner I prompted, “If I were you, I would call again.”
This was before cell phones, and one of the women got up, walked to the desk, and meekly asked if she could make another collect call to her cousin.
It was unmistakable. The employee’s response to this woman’s request was markedly different from when I had asked to make a phone call. Frowning, the employee handed the woman the phone, saying curtly, “Make it quick.”
Until I met the Jersey girls, I had tricked myself into believing I was the ultimate victim in all of life’s drama. Now I knew different. As a white woman, I could never relate to their predicament or understand their daily struggles.
Immobilized, like watching the school bully picking on the smallest girl in class, I stood by and watched the injustice. Hopelessness engulfed my Camden friend’s round face when she reached her cousin only to learn he had not yet left New Jersey.
Was this indifferent response typical of what the Jersy girls had come to expect? Had years of stabbing remarks and curt gestures crushed their self-esteem? In Luke 8:43 we read that a hemorrhaging woman with the issue of blood “had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her.” And here I was face to face with two tired women from a neighboring state who had spent all their money, called their relatives, yet no one was on their way to rescue them.
My thoughts drifted to the reality of the situation. You think you’re in a bad situation, Diane. You may be alone, but others treat you with respect. You know how to read a map. You have the benefit of a towing service. You have a credit card.
My spirit of meditation continued. Tonight’s misfortune is not about me, is it, Lord? Tonight is a reminder of all the times Your power has blessed me. Whenever I reached out, You never turned to see if I was skinny, fat, short, or tall. You never made me check an application form stating whether I was black, white, or other. Without prejudice, You saw me with Your color-blind eyes of love.
Tears of understanding began to form. I knew what I had to do. I would follow my Father God’s example and come to the aid of His two daughters—my Camden sisters in Christ.
My mind shifted into overdrive. What little cash I have can cover the tip for my tow-truck driver. But I have money in my Sunday offering envelope right here in my purse. I opened my bag, handed my weekly church envelope to the women, and told them to use the money to buy gas for their trip home.
Next, I grabbed a complimentary map from the office wall rack, showed the women where we were, and highlighted the route to New Jersey. I told them, “If my car were operational, I would drive to Camden and you could follow me.” Then I chuckled. Yes, but if my car didn’t overheat, our paths would have never crossed.
When the tow truck arrived and hitched up my car, I slid into the cab of his truck and we drove into the dark cold night. I never found out if the women waited for their cousin to guide them home or if they found the courage to journey on their own. But this was not about me. It was about my response to God’s call to action.
The events of that night revealed how not everyone enjoys that same assurance and hope. As individuals and as a society, how long will we speak of fairness but continue to demean others and thereby degrade ourselves? Whenever we judge others are not equal to us, we segregate ourselves from the Great Physician’s healing power.
Regardless of our skin color, our Creator God will heal our physical and emotional breakdowns. With kindness in our hearts, each deliberate step we take toward Him will be a step to purging the prejudiced condition from our souls. With God, we will find healing.
Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well” (Matthew 9:20-21 MSG).