On Friday I had Mark and his family over for a pizza night, and we watched Peter Pan (2003). They left around 10pm, and I was in my bedroom when I heard a knock on my door. It was Mark again, asking for a torch. Apparently the front passenger side wheel of his car was making a screeching metal-on-metal sound and they wanted to check under the wheel to see if they could spot something.
I followed him outside, and we were peering into the wheel well when a guy dressed lightly (it was freezing outside), with a backpack on his back, asked us, “Which way to the ocean?”
I looked at Mark, not really sure what to make of this guy. There are no beaches here – and the nearest beach would be a good half an hour away by car on open roads. At least 30-35km away, and trying to walk there in the middle of the night, in freezing conditions is,… well, a bit crazy.
“Where are you trying to get to?” Mark asked.
“The ocean. Where is the nearest ocean?” the guy asks.
“Well, the nearest ocean would be H Beach, which is about 30 mins away by car, on open roads. You’re not going to get there by walking tonight….” Mark says.
“Which way?” he persists.
At this point, I’m thinking that this guy is probably a bit drunk, or doped up, and I was trying to get rid of him because I was starting to feel a bit unsafe and paranoid. So I point him down the street in the direction he came from and started to explain how he could get out of the suburbs, and out onto the main trunk line which will take him out of the city and roughly into the direction of the “ocean”.
“Oh no,” he says, seemingly distressed, “don’t tell me to go back there…. What’s over there?” he points in the opposite direction – the way he was walking towards when he ran into us.
I was about to say, railroad tracks, because there is a railroad track running across the street about 1km north.
“What are you going to do when you get to the ocean?” Mark asks.
“Walk up the coast” the guy replies.
“How about a warm bed, and a warm meal tomorrow morning, and we can drop you off at the edge of town in the morning? It’s too late to get anywhere tonight….” Mark says.
“No, no….” the guys says. And he starts staggering away.
Mark reiterates his offer a couple of times, including offering him a ride to the edge of town tonight, if we could get the car going….
At this point, I am getting so cold that I go back into my apartment with Mark’s wife and their son. Mark’s wife calls the AA to get a mechanic to come take a look at the car. I was boiling the jug then I came back out and Mark was no where to be seen.
“Where’s Mark?” I asked C, Mark’s wife.
“He’s gone to catch up with the guy”
“He’s worried about him” she says.
“That’s really crazy. You guys don’t know this guy – he could be drunk, or doped up, and you offer him a bed? Aren’t you afraid of what could happen?”
So C and I continued our chat, and C admitted that this was an unknown element, and she would not be bringing him home tonight. She said that the closest they had come is to drive someone to a hostel, pay for their room and for a meal the following morning, and left them there.
I thought that was a genuinely nice thing to do for someone.
About 15-20 minutes later, Mark turns back up at my apartment, and tells us that the guy was pretty determined to make his way to the ocean tonight, and had refused all his offers for help. The guy was slurring his words, it was possible he was drunk. It was freezing cold outside, and he was trying to make his way to the ocean. Mark finally had to give in, and to the best of his ability, he gave the guy directions out of town and pointed towards the “ocean”. Mark added that once they got the car going again, they would drive the route Mark had given the guy and see if they can pick him up and give him a ride to the edge of town.
The AA mechanic came by within 20 mins and it turned out that the wheel had picked up a small stone and dislodging the stone was as easy as simply reversing the car a few meters and rolling it forward again. That got rid of the screeching sound it was making. And Mark and the family were on their way.
This little incident tells volumes about the kind of man Mark is. Mark is a kind, compassionate kind of guy. He is a true Christian, a true follower and imitator of Jesus. He so often makes me ashamed to call myself a Christian.
What would YOU do if a strange guy walked up to you late one night and asks you for directions to the ocean? Would you point him in the general direction and send him on his way, or would you go the extra mile and offer him a warm bed in YOUR home? You know nothing about this guy. All you can think of in the back of your mind are the stories of how people have picked up backpackers along the highway and have gotten raped, mugged, robbed, sometimes even killed.
Mark’s response to this guy was a truly Christian thing to do. It was what Jesus would have done. And aren’t we taught by the bible that we should be imitators of God and his son, Jesus? But where do you draw the line between being smart about your safety and your family’s safety, and demonstrating your Christian obligations by showing love to your neighbours?
It is easy to show love to the people we know. It is easy to offer a bed to someone you know who needs one. It is easy to go the extra mile for a friend. But how about a stranger? A stranger who asks you for the direction to the ocean?