It’s that most wonderful time of the year! A cozy time of hot apple cider, baking cookies with loved ones, and rehashing memories – some good, some, um … not. Like the Christmas memory I relived yesterday while driving over a bridge.
It happened on a chilly December night in the 1980s; I was driving home around 9 p.m. from a Christmas pageant at the nursing home where I worked. My one-year-old daughter had starred as Baby Jesus in the live Nativity (she kept wriggling out of her swaddling clothes, climbing out of the manger and toddling over to pet the fake sheep guarded by my 3-year-old son the shepherd).
The street was nearly deserted as I crested the top of a narrow two-lane bridge spanning a small river. Suddenly, my breath caught in my throat as I swerved to miss a body lying half on the sidewalk, half in the road. I passed the prone man and slowed, finally pulling over to the side of the road at the bottom of the bridge, battling within myself whether to get out or keep going.
This was before cell phones, mind you, so there was no way to call for help within the safe, warm comfort of my car. I had to make a get-your-hands-dirty – or not – decision on the spot. I’ll admit I didn’t want to stop. I was bone tired and gnawingly hungry. And I was wearing my brand new lacy white Christmas blouse; I sure didn’t want to mess it up. Nothing sounded so good as home, sweet, warm, safe home at that moment.
Stay. Go. Stay. Go. What to do?
Glancing at my precious babies in the backseat, still dressed in their Nativity costumes, it hit me full force what I must do. It was next to worthless if I celebrated the birth of Papa God’s son in a manger while ignoring the needs of his child in the gutter.
After locking the car doors and assuring the kids Mommy would be right back, I jammed the keys in my pocket and raced back to the man in the road at the top of the bridge. He was lying motionless in a pool of blood, a gash evident on his forehead. AIDS had just begun making headlines and as a health care professional, I was well aware of the hidden dangers.
As I stood gawking, trying to decide what to do, the man began moaning and rolled farther onto the highway.
I could see headlights approaching and knew I had to do something fast. I grabbed the guy’s arm and tried to pull him back onto the sidewalk, explaining that he was hurt and must stay out of the road. But he was delirious – I couldn’t tell whether it was from alcohol or loss of blood – and didn’t comprehend anything.
We ended up in a bizarre wrestling match before he finally passed out – mostly on the sidewalk, thankfully – with his bloody head in my lap. Sigh. My lacy white blouse was toast.
I used my free arm to flag down the car, but it just kept going.
In a few minutes, another car approached, but it passed us by too, with me waving and hollering like a mule stuck in a hornet’s nest.
Okay, what Bible story are you reminded of right about now? Yep. Me too. I kept praying that Papa God would send that Good Samaritan, the sooner the better.
Sure enough, the third car braked to a stop and a wide-eyed elderly couple cautiously cracked open their window, asking if I needed help. In my state of frenzy, and without thinking through the possible consequences, I gushed, “Oh yes – I don’t know what’s wrong with this guy but I had to get him out of the road and my kids are all alone in my car on the other side of this bridge. I can’t see them from here and I’m scared out of my mind. Can you please call the police?”
They drove away as another car zipped by with radio blaring, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come …”
Within minutes, I heard the wail of a siren and soon turned the still-unconscious fellow over to the police. Running down the bridge’s expanse toward my car, my panic began to subside as I saw the kind old couple sitting in their car parked beside mine, waving and making silly faces at my giggling kids.
So you can imagine what bridges do to my blood pressure at Christmastime.
But once I get past the AGGGHHH part, the wonder of it all settles in. Love came in the form of a babe in a manger so that we can, in turn, share love with our fellow man. Even the one bleeding all over your exquisite lacy white Christmas blouse.
Why? Well, the song says it all: Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
So in that beautiful, glowing, contagious joy, this Christmastime, let’s reach out to our fellow sojourners of this world with His love. I believe that’s more important than a dozen lacy white Christmas blouses, don’t you?
Wishing you and yours a most blessed celebration of the birth of our Lord.