“If he’s going to hop out of his car and pee on the side of the road, you’d think he wouldn’t leave his indicators blinking to draw attention to himself!” So I thought – somewhat uncharitably, rather hypocritically for the author of a blog that is titled “CHARITY walking”. (What’s more, I was driving!) As we approached, the man turned and I realised my initial observation was inaccurate. As we passed, he leaned against the side of his car. I glanced up in the rear view mirror.
“What are you doing Mum?” one of the kids asked.
“I’m turning the car round, we’re going back to see if that man’s OK. He doesn’t look too good.”
I completed the circle, pulled up behind him and jumped out. He was still bent over, supporting himself against the car. Mucous was dripping from his mouth and nose into a great puddle at his feet. How do you show respect to someone who may feel humiliated that you’ve seen him in such a state?
“Are you OK? Do you need some help? Can I do something for you?” My questions seemed trivial, obvious, brainless. This older gentleman was clearly NOT OK.
“I’m fine,” he sputtered, an extra-long drool dripping from his chin. I can’t have looked convinced, because he went on, “I’m on medication for cancer. It makes me sick sometimes. This was one of those times. I’m better now.”
He turned away, unfolded a large white handkerchief and cleaned himself up. I waited.
“I’m sorry.” It sounded so hollow. “Are you sure you’re all right? You wouldn’t like me to ring someone?”
“No, really, it’s over now,” he insisted. Then he turned to face me and looked me straight in the eye. “Thanks for stopping. I really appreciate it.”
As we drove away I thought about how the slow pace of the last two months’ walking life was impacting our busy almost-running-late morning. One of the lessons of the Camino is to slow down. Now we had the opportunity to put into practice our learning.
“Always take time to help people,” I urged the kids. “Never be too busy to stop and help. You never know, but even the Good Samaritan might have been busy.”