Ettie Newlands

Like every other morning, my husband prayed that if there was someone he could help that day, God would clearly show him who they were.

The only thing different about that day was that we weren’t home, we were out of town, traveling.

So it was at a gas station at Exit 4 in Virginia that the test – one my husband has passed with flying colors many other times – presented itself.

He’d just filled the car with gas and was getting back into the driver’s seat when the stranger approached him.

He was a nicely-dressed man we noticed get out of a late-model well-kept vehicle.

The stranger looked to be in his 30s and a passenger in his car was older, maybe in his 50s.

“Can you help me? I’m trying to get my father to North Carolina for cancer treatment,” the stranger said to my husband.

And without a moment’s hesitation, my husband said, “No, I can’t help you.”

The stranger thanked him anyway, got into his own car and drove off.

My husband got into our car, looked at me, but didn’t say a word.

Actually, he didn’t say a word for about 50 miles, and then said simply, “I sure blew that one.”

So we talked.

We talked about the obvious, that it was probably a sham and a scam, and the stranger probably didn’t even have a father.

“I didn’t even ask him what he needed,” my husband said. He could have filled the man’s gas tank, he said. Or bought the two men a meal. At the very least, he said, he should have prayed with him.

He could have…should have…would have, and was beating himself up because he didn’t.

“It’s a world where we’re afraid to help anyone,” my husband rationalized. “He might have had a gun.”

For once, I didn’t say a word.

“How can I ask God to show me who I can help and then refuse to do it?” my husband asked himself out loud.

And then he told God he was sorry. And then he prayed someone else would help the man. And then he asked God for another chance.

A hard day’s lesson.


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