I’m not a creep. I’m not a creep. I’m not a creep.
I knock on the car’s window. The person inside jumps, raises her hands to her mouth in shock, sees me, jumps again, and after a moment of hesitation lowers her window. My sweaty reflection disappears as the glass drops into the door. I look like a creep.
“Hi!” I say. “I’m the pastor from the church right there.” I gesture to the building behind me. “I noticed the accident and everyone’s been waiting here for a while I thought you might like some water.” I proffer a plastic bag filled with sealed water bottles.
The woman looks at me, glances at the bag, and says, “Thanks. Yeah. I think I’ll take one.”
We chat for a few minutes. She’s a librarian on her way to work. She’s already half an hour late because of the accident. She asks about the people in the crushed cars.
“When I talked to the officers, they said there was no one seriously hurt. So that’s good! They told me the road should be cleared in ten minutes, but that was, um, fifteen minutes ago now.” I offer a rueful smile. “And it’s so hot. How long have you been waiting?”
She looks at the clock. “Almost forty minutes.”
“I’m sorry.” I gesture to the line of cars. After some more niceties, I say, “Good to meet you! I’m going to make my way up the line, though. Make sure no one gets overheated.”
And I make my way up the street that has become a parking lot, reminding myself that I’m not a creep. I offer more water, eventually running out – and actually at just the right place, at the guy driving the dump truck that was at the head of the line. Only about half the people I talked to accepted water; many already had drinks with them of some kind. Good thing; it was in the 90’s and plenty humid without waiting inside a car on the pavement. As I went, I chatted with a man on a motorcycle, one of the church’s neighbors who had come out to see what was going on, a Baptist deacon (“Good to meet you!” he says and offers to come cantor at my congregation), a few construction workers, a young woman who really didn’t know what to do with me, and a lot more.
I really debated what to do when cars started lining up. Do I go make sure people are ok? Offer them our bathroom? Offer them our AC? If I bring water, do I hand over a business card, too?
I opted to simply… serve. I identified myself and offered bottles of water. That’s it. If someone wanted to talk more, of course I’d be willing! But here I didn’t want to “hold anyone hostage” or anything. Just… serve. And so I delivered water until I ran out of water. The timing worked out, too. The line finally got moving about five minutes after handing out my last bottle.
And once the line started moving, I counted: 145 cars backed up in one direction on the little two-lane highway in front of the church. On the hottest day of the year thus far.
Should I have slipped in a business card? Yeah, it probably wouldn’t have hurt. Could I have invited to church? Yeah. But… I chose to simply serve. To simply give cold water to those who desired it. Best thing I could have done? I’m willing to admit that I probably could have done more.
But I know what I did was good. Best? Probably not. But here, again, cold water for those who needed it.
And here I take great comfort. Every day I fail. Every action I take is tainted by my sinful nature. I have never done a purely good work. And yet… Jesus has given me his robes of righteousness. While I’m concerned about being a creep, he looks and smiles – not because I’m awesome, but because he is, and he loves me. And on the Last Day, he’ll look at me and declare, “Well done!” And that declaration has nothing to do with my actions. It has everything to do with the fact that he has given me what he earned, and he has declared me what he is. And now I am his child. My sinful nature is buried; I need not fear.
Do I want to learn how to serve better? Yeah. But only because my Savior has already told me that I am his, and he has proven it on the cross, and he has given it to me in my Baptism.
Which means… I rejoice that he gave me an opportunity to serve. To simply give a bottle of cold water to those who are thirsty. This was a gift from him.
And for the next time? I’ll pray wisdom to use the opportunities better.