Two good friends of mine had a harrowing experience yesterday: an 18-year-old daughter went missing on the way home from a long-distance visit with friends the previous night. A frantic day of path-tracing, phone calls, visits with police and contacts with the cell phone company bore no fruit but exhaustion – she was nowhere to be found.
Fortunately, the story had a happy ending. The daughter finally phoned home after a nerve-wracking experience of her own, and the family was reunited. It turns out that she had gotten lost in an unfamiliar city and took some wrong turns. When she finally got pointed in the right direction, it was very late. To add to the problem, the battery in her cell phone had completely discharged, and she didn’t have a DC charger with her.
That’s when the real trouble started: long after midnight, her car broke down while traveling on an interstate highway, several miles from an exit in either direction. She pulled into the breakdown lane, turned on her flashers and waited for a highway patrolman or some other helpful person to stop and offer assistance.
No one did. She waited through the night, sleeping at times, standing outside the vehicle at times, trying to attract the attention of a passing patrolman or deputy. She counted eight of them at different times: none of them stopped, nor did anyone else.
At some point, the battery ran down and the emergency flashers died, but she remained with her vehicle through the night, and through the day – for 15 long hours she sat in or stood by her vehicle, and nobody stopped. Late in the day, hungry and feeling desperate, she finally started walking, and a family stopped to offer her a ride to the nearest truck stop. At last, she could phone home.
I had always assumed that the state patrolmen and county deputies were charged to investigate vehicles parked on the side of the interstate, especially when they’ve been there for some time. I don’t know why that didn’t happen. And there are reasons why individuals or families may be hesitant to stop and help if they fear a lone girl may be bait for bandits hiding in the back seat. At least, one would think, someone could have called to report her apparent plight.
Sometimes, I think, we let caution get the best of us. In the future, I suspect I’ll be more likely to slow down and offer a helping hand if it appears someone needs it. That person stranded by the road is someone’s daughter or son, someone’s spouse, someone’s parent.
The world could use more Good Samaritans.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.