The cold, wet wind blew straight through my jacket before I stepped off the front porch. Dodging slushy raindrops, Noah and I made our way to the car. Easing into the seat, all I wanted to do was go back inside, start a fire, have a hot cuppa something and a good read. Instead, we drove to the bus stop.
I noticed the bags and bike before I notice the man. “Weird. Who rode their bike to the bus stop?” I thought. (Parents occasionally ride bikes down to the corner to await the bus. Their children ride or follow along. Just not so much, in March. ) Pulling closer- I noticed a brown coated, soaking wet “Shaggy” double [from scooby doo- i’m old skool.] trying to keep his cigarette lit in the rain. “That’s not a parent.” My mom radar sounded off a warning.
He paced back and forth at the corner- picking up cans and putting them one at a time into his collection of piled bags. AT THE BUS STOP. For the record, it’s not a public transit stop. It’s the school bus stop. On our street corner. In a subdivision. In the suburbs. In a nice neighborhood. In the rain. In the cold. In March.
It was: weird.
I told Noah to: stay in the car. Since not a single child raced to the bus stop, (a morning tradition.) I’m guessing that every parent in the neighborhood thought the same: “DANGER! WEIRDO. Protect the children!”
To me- the dude looked like a predator. Why else would he be out in this rain? On a bike. At a school bus stop? At 8:15 am ? Soaking wet?
I considered calling the police… what are the rules about stranger danger, anyway? Do you wait until the guy talks to a kid?
I looked up and down the row of mom-driven, soggy SUV’s and by the similar turn of our mom hair-cutted heads- eyes locked on the “intruder,” it was obvious we were all watching his every soggy- and chilled to the bone move. We were keeping our children safe.
Suddenly, he flipped up his soggy collar against the cold rain and started gathering his bags. He glanced at the cars lined up like a police blockade and mounted his bike while the cigarette dangled from his lips. We’d made it pretty clear: he was not wanted or welcome here.
As he turned to pedal away, I saw his face. He was just a kid. Maybe college age.. but still, just a kid. He looked cold, frustrated, a bit embarrassed.
When he was out of view, car doors started to open and slam shut behind children. The morning’s race to the stop sign commenced. Things were back to normal.
I should have felt relieved.
I didn’t. I felt awful.
“What if he wasn’t a predator? What if he was just cold and hungry and desperate enough to face the cold to collect cans to buy breakfast?” Questions flooded my mind, a little too late.
Today begins lent, a time when we set aside time to die to ourselves in order to find greater life in Christ…and I’d just missed the point, entirely. What if I’d died to my own fear and offered him a cup of coffee or an umbrella? What if I’d grabbed the cans from the floor of my car (ok, so my car’s a mess- it always is. Don’t judge me.) to add to his collection? What if I’d reached out in kindness instead of being held back by fear?
Did I miss a divine appointment? Or was he a predator that I’d just kept my child safe from?
I’ll never know.
But when I read this over on Curt’s blog this morning- I felt convicted.
I won’t miss the next opportunity. I will step out of my fear and into love. I think instead of giving up something for lent this year- I’m going to give up my fear make lent a journey into love….selfless fearless love.
By His grace, and with a safe (ish) plan…..
My questions for you:
- What would you have thought, or done?
- Can you think of a safe way I could have reached out to this guy?
- Did I do the right, or wrong thing?
- Have you been in situations like this? What did you do?
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts…