I’m fairly certain I just had a prostitute in my car.
But let’s back up…
It’s a sunny 85º Sunday afternoon. I’m driving in my dad’s truck because my Jeep is at the mechanics. I have just left my house to return the movie “Lights Out” to my nearest Redbox — Jake Davis spent the night and we watched it with stomachs full of good pizza and cold Not Your Fathers Root Beer (and maybe a little wine too).
Just a half-mile down the road I pass a woman, carrying a big black satchel over her shoulder, sweating in the June sun, thumb pointed towards the sky. The road we are both on stretches for a few miles and I figured, wherever she is headed, I could spare her those miles at the very least.
I pull over. She begins to jog towards the car hastily. Michelle, 35, turning 36 in a week, throws her belongings into the cab and hops in. Gratefully, she shakes my hand with both of hers. I quickly change my Spotify playlist to something less abrasive than metal while she asks how old I am, surprised by the “baby face” I yield at 26.
She was not fortunate to arrive at the bus-stop before the bus did. She is on her way to Cooper Hospital, Camden (a 15min drive). Her mother is ill and did not sound to be doing very well. Having had experience in Camden, knowing swindlers and liars abound, as do broken people who genuinely hurt…I choose to take her word for it. Immediately, I begin to feel the weight of stopping to help. I see the relief settle in as she does into my passenger seat. I see stress roll off her forehead along with the beads of sweat in the beautiful A/C of the car.
My perspective widens and I see how perfectly all the dominos landed: if I hadn’t left my house at that time, if I didn’t forget to bring the movie with me to church to return it after, if I was able to get the movie through On Demand like I first tried, if Jake didn’t sleep over to specifically watch a horror movie which led me to think of Lights Out in the first place…
Our time was full of conversation. I learned about her life and visa versa. Michelle wants to travel, especially having nothing tying her down currently. She wants to go overseas, to see Europe; to escape. She says the past 8 years have been rough for her and she’s decided to try to put her life back together after derailing quite a bit. Her now-ill mother has seen 2 divorces. Michelle was only 3 years old for the first. She confessed that she knows the damage she’s caused herself and her family and that the only thing holding her back at this point is herself. It’s in these moments, prostitute or not, you can see someone’s true desires for what they wished their life actually was.
Familiar with the spot she asked to be let out at, it was very easy to speculate that she was probably just bumming a free ride, a water bottle and a few bucks in between shifts at her day/night job. However, whoever I picked up earlier, I dropped off a fellow human now. It wasn’t really that much of an inconvenience for me and a complete stranger was subject to dialog of Christ’s love for a quick minute. She expresses much gratitude, calls me a “sweet boy” (as if she’s an old soul) and optimistically predicts that good karma will come slap me in the face soon. We part ways.
I pray that she continues to find strength and that my simple interruption into her life is just the first of many ripples.
Fast-forward to Walmart; destination A. The movie is returned and I am standing behind dreadfully full karts in a stagnant line at checkout. It begins to seem like my lane is the only one not moving, but I don’t want to switch only to lose progress. One of the registrars notices the few number of items I’m holding and points me to another lane that is practically empty 3 rows over. I make my way over, but an older couple pulls up just before I round the end-cap. I hurried up just to wait once more. Except, the wife takes a few glances at me (apparently sizing up my few possessions) and then implores that go before her and her husbands kart. Karma? Not sure, but I’ll take it.
I continue to talk with what has got to be one of the cutest and most-loving 30-year-old (or so) marriages in the South Jersey area. We converse; jokes are made, they poke fun at and hug each other. It’s not often you run into such radiance. If they are having this much fun just being at Walmart together, I imagine they could do anything or be anywhere and still enjoy life together where others (myself) would complain.
I take my things and all leave the isle with freshly fueled smiles.
Fast-forward once again to me pulling back into my driveway. My neighbor and his son are struggling to hoist a man-sized box up their porch and into the house.
My neighbor has serious back issues, and what I help them do in mere seconds would have taken him an unreasonable amount of time. His mouth is neither big enough nor strong enough to contain the amount of gratitude inside him; it forcefully spills out, unbridled.
As I walk back up my own porch and find my keys, I pause. Everything feels strange suddenly. The sun is shining too clearly, the grass appears vibrant, the sky has a fresh coat of blue and there’s a pleasant breeze carrying the tunes of local birds through the streets of my development full of nearly identical little houses. I look up towards the clouds half-expecting to see an odd bubble encapsulating my town, or a camera looming on a long crane with a mic and a blinking, red light…like something off The Truman Show.
Nope. It’s all real. It’s just a day where I decided to give in to the pull of a random act of kindness and found that it changed the way I saw my fellow humans beings and the world around me.
My only warning to you, before you decide to be bold and be a light you wish you saw in the world, pumping joy straight into others hearts… it’s contagious.
PS: The movie wasn’t that great. Diana was creepy, but it takes a little more to scare me nowadays.