Pam and I were on our way to pick up two of our granddaughters from school the other day, and came upon a dog frantically running in front of us. She was a mixed breed, with a long body, black and white markings, traversing aback and forth in the middle of the road, panting heavily at a hurried pace, her long skinny tail wagging behind. Cars were stopping abruptly to avoid hitting her and, some swerving, barely missing her and slowing down. We followed her for more than a mile and she kept looking around, looking back and we wondered what circumstance led her to this frightened state. We were almost late to the car line at school and so at one point we managed to go around her as another car stopped and the driver got out to help. I so wanted to stop, but knew we had to be there for our girls. When we came back on the same route, the dog was gone.
I spent most of the rest of that afternoon in melancholic thought, regretting not stopping and disquieted at what I had seen. Had someone just released her to get rid of her, or was it something else? Where was she, and was she safe now?
In mid thought, it occurred to me there are many people in the world feeling just like that helpless little creature; lots of people…more than we imagine. We know them…or about them. Soldiers returning home from war, but sadly, not everything they were, will make it back. Sanity and limbs are casualties that won’t be retrieved…won’t be returning on a later flight. These guardians face relentless nightmares, night sweats, weeping midnights of battle sewn memories and residual family tension as well.
There are parents of children missing, or lost to addiction or suicide, as well as those struggling with ongoing mental and physical problems. Tender young men and women who are warring with their sexual orientation and doing whatever they can to remain closeted….totally alone in their secret, or bullied by those who do suspect. There are those distraught with knowing they will never feel the touch of their spouse or children again, or worse, not know where their children are. There are those who will never again enter the company offices that once employed them….. feeling a lonely distance from those with whom they once felt a closeness;. Their self image now in shambles, hold little hope of employment on the horizon, much less an equally compensated position,. There are those whose world has been abruptly uprooted by a doctor’s diagnosis that they have limited time on this earth…it’s real…it’s final.
All these desperados running down this road in a frenetic haze, hopelessly looking around….and know nothing else but to hurt…to hide…to cry….to scream…to fear. And so they run…….run…and keep running. Even with the hope of heaven, if they believe…there’s still a stark, enigmatic “otherness” they feel. They may need a kind word, or assurance of God’s nearness, a hand on their shoulder, your quiet presence or aid in finding more emotional or financial support.
God help me never forget when I see, or hear of people met in the despair of personal difficulty. Would that I not find myself so wrapped up in my comfort, in my busyness…. that I’m too busy to stop along the road.