As with so many others so much like it, This Town sits at an intersection. Two roads of local, though not especially widespread, significance cross on the edge of This Town, and the intersection is governed by a ubiquitous four-way-stop. Occasionally, and almost always by lack of attention, someone will drive on through without stopping. In those rare instances, folks generally cooperate and look out for one another and just get on with their day.
Within just a few blocks of the four-way sit at least six churches of various flavors and sizes. None are especially large, because, simply put, there just aren’t that many people who live in This Town. The folks who do, though, are generally good-hearted, hard-working folks who, even though they go to different churches, usually get along pretty well. Church is where they can be found on Sundays (and plenty of other days, too), but their faith is more often simply who they are rather than something they do.
On a recent Sunday, we were leaving Our Church when we saw something of a commotion out on the street. Through town, anyway, the street is four lanes wide, and something was going on that had all four lanes stopped. The first thing I spotted was a vehicle, apparently exiting from That Church Across the Street. The vehicle had stopped in the middle of the road perpendicular to the traffic. As I wondered why, I noticed a young man walking steadily but VERY slowly across the street in front of that vehicle, seemingly oblivious to the traffic that had stopped around him.
To say this was unusual would be a major understatement. The situation unfolding in front of us seemed not only strange, but also quite dangerous. If anyone approaching the situation happened to be less than attentive, the young man could easily be injured or worse.
But then, suddenly, I noticed something else. Two men from Our Church, probably 35-40 years apart in age, were walking out into the street toward the young man. They greeted him warmly and escorted him safely to the sidewalk on Our Church’s side of the street. Before it was all over, one of them took him in his own vehicle and gave him a ride home.
I was justifiably proud of the two men, both of whom I know. I mean, they stepped right up and did the right thing. That’s the way we are at Our Church. That’s just the way Our Church is. It’s a shame That Church Across the Street isn’t the same way. If the situation was reversed, their members might not have even helped that young man.
Really? REALLY!?! Are their members not willing to step out and “do the right thing?” Is That Church Across the Street so uncaring as I wanted to believe? After all, left to its own devices, my imagination could also suggest all sorts of unfounded (read “wrong”) assumptions that led that young man out into the street in the first place. Gratefully, something, and I have to believe it was God rather than I, caused me to stop and reconsider my arrogant pride.
After all, why was that driver stopped across the flow of traffic if not to protect the young man? What had members of the other congregation already done or tried to do to help him? If he had been crossing toward them, would they really have ignored him? I don’t think so.
We’re not residents of This Town, though we’re there regularly. We live elsewhere, and our backgrounds have taken us many places very different from This Town. What I first saw as an “us vs. them” was actually a beautiful example of people coming together, from different congregations but from a common commitment to people and to doing the right thing by them, to make a difference in the life of this one young man.
Just as they look out for one another at the four-way-stop, the residents of This Town also look out for someone crossing the street – whatever street it is and whichever way he’s headed. My guess is they didn’t see this situation as anything special. It was just regular people doing what they should. And I feel sure that, once it was over, they simply went on about their day.
I have so much to learn from the folks at Our Church and the residents of This Town. I can only pray I’ll be open to learning and will put those lessons into practice in my own life. Eventually, maybe I can even share some of them with others, too. This Town, Our Church, and even That Church Across the Street are beautiful places to be – at whatever intersection you may find them.