On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times, the columnist recounts and reflects on a difficult experience, both its frustrating moments and its ultimate blessings. As Christians, when helping another in need, there is joy and the expectation that the day will finish well, but we know that is not always the case. Puzzlement and uneasiness may be present, and we blame ourselves for a stupid act that brought pain into our lives. But often in this hopelessness we can find hope because of our belief in the God who gives freely and is always with us.
The trip was filled with talk about the different topics for the retreat his companion would be conducting, so the entire trip was a mini retreat for the columnist. At the airport, he helped the priest unload the luggage and began the return trip to the monastery. The gas gauge indicated the gas was low but he thought there would be no trouble in making it back, though knowing that on the beltway there would be no gas stations.
At that time of day the beltway was busy with drivers on their way home from work. When the car began to slow down, he feared the worse. And soon the car just stopped, during the busiest time of the day. And making matters worse, he could see that the drivers were hurling his way all the abusive words they could muster as they went by his stalled car.
Here he was in the middle of a busy turnpike and not knowing what to do next. Fortunately, he had his cell phone and called the monastery. The brother answering told him that it was no big deal, gave him the number of the insurance company to call, and told him they would solve the problem very quickly. He called the company, gave them the location of his stalled car, and was told to relax; they would be there shortly.
But he was not able to relax. Seeing the angry faces of the passing drivers and passengers, he wanted to convey the message that he was himself upset with the situation. He turned on the emergency light, opened the back door, and stood outside the the car, shivering, wanting to show that his car had broken down and was waiting for the tow truck. Within 30 minutes the tow truck arrived and they left the turnpike at the nearest exit, found the first gas station, and then went on his way to the monastery with a heartfelt thanksgiving.
On the way home he began to mull over in his mind the whole incident and the way he saw it. Because he did a good deed he felt tempted to believe he would be rewarded, but saw the selfishness of that attitude. We do not know the future and to think that God is always going to give us what we want is selfishness. And to blame only himself for what happened is foolishness. If one has been doing his best when we are faced with misery, sadness and despair, we don't give up. God will bring in the hope and joy if we are able to turn our eyes to those around us.
The tow truck came because their service was paid for, but God's help is completely free. When he called the monastery and was told by the brother not to worry, that it was no big deal, the words came as a healing balm. God is always saying, "It's me, do not be afraid, I am with you." He will come to us in the guise of our neighbor's help. The sharing and good deeds that we do are the ways God uses to bring help to those in need--and all gratis. A good thought to keep in mind during this Advent Season.