modern day samaritans

Switzerland - News

The light ahead was red, and no one was close behind, so I slowed to let the man who just darted across two lanes of traffic finish his dangerous dash to the wide concrete median strip on my left. It was a blustery day, with northwest winds biting harshly under the dense, dark clouds of a late fall cold front pouring into Georgia. All of which made this man’s shorts, light windbreaker, ball cap, and open-heeled clogs seem woefully inadequate for the day upon us.

Reaching the median, he nodded my way while lifting his left hand for a quick wave of “thanks.” Standing now in the middle of a six-lane roadway, he turned and walked down the center of the thoroughfare towards the same intersection I was approaching. Driving close by, I noticed he was clutching a box meal from McDonald’s in his right hand.

“Poor guy,” I thought, with no choice but to walk out here amid aggressive drivers, on dangerous streets, in rough weather, just to get a bite to eat. I was puzzled, though, why he would risk crossing a busy road to then walk back towards the bridge and freeway exit/entrance ramps.

Stopped for the traffic light when he walked by, I forced myself not to give in to the urge to reach for the automatic door lock. I hate even admitting that entered my mind. But, it did. At least I had enough sense not to press the button and make this black man hear yet another click as yet another white person locked a car door.

About that time, he motioned to someone diagonally across the intersection. Following his gaze, I noticed for the first time the scraggly-bearded white man, probably in his twenties, standing on the highway exit ramp. Dressed in ratty jeans, a tattered flannel shirt, and stocking cap, he held a hand-lettered cardboard sign I couldn’t quite make out from so far away. I couldn’t read it; but it’s the kind of sign we’ve all read many times. I wondered if this fellow had even been there when I drove by a couple of hours earlier.

The black man in his shorts motioned again, pointing to the box meal he was holding up in his outstretched arm and waving the begging man toward him. At first, the guy didn’t seem to understand. But, eventually he walked in front of the drivers stopped at the top of the off ramp, and stepped from the curb into the street – not really looking at the cars which fortunately stopped. The black man waded into the traffic too, meeting him halfway to help him back to the raised median strip.

I stared in disbelief, watching their conversation, when the light turned green and I reluctantly rolled away. Turning left onto the interstate, I was still trying to piece together what I’d just seen. The nearest McDonald’s was up the road at least a quarter of a mile. Best I could figure, the man with the box meal had come off that exit ramp, seen the young man begging for food, stopped to buy him a meal, and walked it back to him (in shorts on a cold, windy day, through traffic).

This “poor fellow” I had taken detached pity on crossing a busy street was a Good Samaritan on a mission. And, I was just a passive observer feeling he’d done his good deed for the day by slowing his car long enough to let someone pass.

I thought about that scene all the way home. And, when I got there, I googled something just to punctuate the point I already knew. The search was for: angel images. The pictures and drawings I got back were of cherubic girls and golden-haired women, with feathery wings and glowing halos, page after page with alabaster-white skin and ruby cheeks.

So, ask yourself what I was wondering…

If you passed an angel on the street today, would you know it?

Image: Road angel slows down speed demons - credit: Fribourg Police Dept (promotional use)
Maurice Carter

Maurice Carter

Maurice Carter is President and Founder of Breathe-Water, LLC, where he uses community building, storytelling, consulting, and social media to enable businesses, non-profits, and communities to understand and harness forces for positive change. An Atlanta native living in Covington, GA, Maurice is an active community volunteer, a freelance columnist, and an advocate for causes that build community and promote thoughtful responses to the opportunities and challenges of our day.