As desert dwellers thousands of miles from home, Janelle and her boys didn’t know what to do about rain. No raincoats ever hung in their closets. An umbrella was something one might use in a school play. Windshield wipers in southern Arizona died of sunstroke, not overuse. Until this rainy afternoon, the family’s desert tents and gear had not had a moisture test.
In the last four days as Janelle drove east across Canada, rain had enveloped the compact station wagon with the four of them inside–the five-year-old twins, her teen nephew, Chris, and herself. Even when she turned the wheel into a spacious wooded campsite, the three boys glumly glanced at everything misty with rain.
“Cheer up, Boys! This rain can’t last too much longer!” Janelle quipped, remembering summer monsoon rains in the southwest that lasted about an hour, and then shut off like a faucet. After a monsoon, the Arizona ground would soon be as dry as crackers.
To make shade and a rain cover, most campers string a waterproof tarp between trees. Not Janelle. She still clung to the monsoon theory. Though they were being assaulted by rain, Chris and Janelle spread out the large dining canopy over the pine needles under some evergreens.
Soon the tarp was collecting puddles while the lady of the camp coaxed a hot dinner from the sputtering camp stove.
With the crunch, crunch of footsteps in the gravel, she turned toward the joyful Canadian voice, “So you’re all the way from Arizona, aye?” The senior’s raincoat was nearly dry. Janelle nodded. “Haven’t seen another car around here from Arizona for a month or more.”
Janelle noticed his puzzled look when he spied the three damp boys huddled on the tarp. The rain dripped over them and their dinner.
“Doesn’t rain much in Arizona, I hear.”
“Nope,” Janelle told him. “We’ve never seen it rain this much before ever!”
The smiling senior offered, “If it stops raining, I’ll come over and start a fire for you.” He jaunted back to his dry, warm travel trailer in which he and his wife were able to watch the camping drama. It was better than TV!
Chris and Janelle then set up the two-person tent camper for him and one twin. That’s when the zipper died on the tent trailer. She threw a tarp over the tent door. Chris and one twin started a board game inside, but drops of water squeezed through the keyhole and wet the board. An explosion of cards blasted out of the tent.
Chris announced, “That’s it! I’m finding a dry place!” Janelle thought how desperate Chris had to be as he sprinted to an outhouse nearby. She remembered that pit toilets were at the top of his hate list. Soon his face was pressed against the screen as he sucked great gulps of clean air and the smell of freshly washed evergreens. He was dry, but not a happy camper.
The Canadian campmate returned in his black rain gear carrying a hot pot of tea. “It’s not dry enough to make a fire, so I brought you something to warm you up,” he said. His smile was cheerful. The ceramic pot of tea he held up belonged in a tidy kitchen, not so far from town. The shiny black surface was decorated with delicate flowers and gold trim. Janelle thanked him and headed for the privy door.
“Hey, Chris!” she coaxed, standing at the privy door. “Open up!” Chris squeaked open the door wide enough to see the elegant pot of hot tea. Soon the four of them sat in the car, enjoying the warm drink. Their sense of humor returned as they all were filled with thankfulness.
Out of the thousands of miles they traveled, they would remember that couple’s act of kindness to strangers as an example of Jesus’ command to go and do likewise for our neighbor.
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he illustrated an example of showing kindness to all—including to less desirable people. He himself took down the walls between people based on race, social status, economic condition, health or position.
The Samaritans, generations before, came about when Jews intermarried with their women. To Jesus’ audience, Samaritans were half-breeds and not worthy of any attention. Yet Jesus used one in his parable as a hero who saved the traveler from death.
When Jesus healed a group of ten lepers, who was the only one who came back to thank him and praise God? Only a Samaritan, a foreigner. [Luke 17:11-19]
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”[Jesus asked]
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” [Luke 10:36-37]
The Canadian who showed kindness could easily have sized up this woman with a car full of kids as poor – Who else would sleep in a tent? – and dumb – Who else would lay a tarp on the ground, instead of tying it up in the trees as a shelter from the rain? as well as naive – Of course it rains in the north. How else do the thick forests grow so green?
But instead, he showed kindness to strangers to foreign visitors—leaving them with a warm memory for a lifetime.
Who is your neighbor?
[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]