Get Motivated!

by: Major Kris Wood, Maplewood Corps Community Center Officer

Someone purchased a ticket for me to attend the Get Motivated conference that moved through St. Louis.  Eighteen thousand people filled the stadium and listened to motivational speakers, financial experts, Washington D.C. celebs and politicians get us motivated to make a difference in our world.  Overall it was not bad.  I was surprised that Laura Bush was my favorite speaker of the day; surprised because she was funny, intelligent and very candid.  One speaker talked about how success is built off of doing the little things well.  He emphasized that doing the little things for someone else, whether they know you are the one doing them or not, can change that person’s world.  
I left the arena to go the six blocks to my car so that I could hurry home to dinner.  A cold rain blew from the west and hit against the city with large hard raindrops.  The warm spring day had deteriorated into a cold stormy evening.  Everywhere around the stadium people scurried to find the warmth and protection of their automobiles.  Taxi cabs were lined up waiting for interested patrons; like a long row of ducks swimming across a pond.  I did not have a rain coat and an umbrella was never something I had with me, so I immediately felt the cold, soaking rain penetrate my fleece jacket and chill my skin.  I pulled my collar up and dashed like so many others.  My strategy was to dodge from building to building using their entryways and awnings as protection from the weather.  This worked for three blocks and then when I turned west toward the lot that held my car there were no more protective architectural designs to cover me from the rain.  I walked along a six lane main road that protruded out from the Gateway Arch like a spoke on an old wagon wheel.  I was on the third spoke, the one heading directly west.  Two other spokes went out to my north and several others to my south.  The French designed cities with a combination of wheel spoked roads and semi-circular belt roads that connected the spokes as they headed in different directions on the compass to some unknown ending point.  (Does the road ever end?)The rain was beating into my face and my tri-focal glasses were nearly useless as the rain coagulated on their surface.  I removed them and wiped them dry with the underside of my jacket but vision was still blurred by the hard rain and the increasing wind.  The sound of car tires pushing aside water came up the road as the next surge of vehicles increased speed from the last red light.  Then, I saw something that I wished I could stop but was helpless to do anything about; a man, wearing a long gray trench coat and carrying an over-stuffed leather shoulder bag was running across the six lanes of road directly in the path of the cars that were gaining speed and heading west out of the city.  The horrible and inevitable sound of the man getting struck by a car is the only thing I can remember.  One minute he was running; then maybe a raindrop interfered with my view or my own psychological defense mechanisms have blocked the image from my mind; and then the horrible sound of body striking metal and the sound of breaking glass shocked me into understanding that I was a witness to a horrible accident.  I must admit that I am surprised that at that very moment I remembered the words of the motivational speaker who had told us earlier in the afternoon that doing little things for people can change their world.  I wondered why I had that thought as I ran the fifty or so feet to where the man’s body lay crumpled at the side of the car.  Then, I saw a miracle that has impacted me with incredible significance.  First, I must explain that every major city in the United States has its section where young and old men spend their days wandering aimlessly up and down the street panhandling, stealing, scheming, selling, using and sometimes sleeping.  I was in that neighborhood when the accident occurred.  As if out of nowhere a small group of these street men suddenly ran to the injured man and realized that the next surge of cars was coming up the road with no apparent idea that there had been an accident.  
These young men, often labeled as societal rejects or the hopeless lost, threw their bodies with wild abandon between the on-rushing vehicles and the body of this man laying almost invisible in his bloodied gray trench coat on the gray rain washed asphalt of the road.  Having no fear for themselves two men literally ran toward the oncoming vehicles waving their arms and shouting for them to stop.  All of the vehicles caught notice of these brave young men and stopped before striking the prone body of the man on the street.  “You saved his life,” I heard myself shouting as I arrived on the scene.  A nurse ran from her SUV and began immediate first aid care for the injured man.  I did not know what I was to do.  The young men were still directing traffic around the accident, the nurse had the victim secured and was giving him amazing care.  I was standing there wondering what little thing I could do.  Then, I saw the shaking hands of the young woman who had been driving the car that struck the man.  The hands were lean and slender and gripped so that her knuckles were white from the pressure.  She was staring out the windshield, holding the steering wheel and a lone tear was resting on her left cheek.  I knocked on the window and motioned for her to roll it down so that I could talk to her.  She looked at me with a sort of shock, wondering what I was doing and why I was there.  (I was wondering that as well.)
“Are you alright?” I asked.  The woman looked at her hands and then released the steering wheel.  She slowly nodded her head as reality crept back into her mind.  In the back seat were two boys that looked so much alike that they had to be brothers.  “Are you two alright?” I asked.  Neither boy responded.  They stared at me as if I were an apparition from another time or dimension.  I asked again, “Are you alright?” The eldest looking nodded that he was fine and the second followed him with the exact same head motion.  “Are you sure that you are all okay?” I asked, addressing all three of the passengers.  The woman turned and looked at me.  A tear was filling her right eye and ready to spill over onto the other cheek.  “Is he…..” she started to ask, her voice distant and thin.  “He’s going to be alright,” I said, patting her on the shoulder.  “There’s a nurse here and she’s taking good care of him.”  The young woman sank with relief and then began sobbing uncontrollably into her hands.  “I thought I had…. I thought….” she was trying to say.  “I know,” I interrupted, “He’s gonna be fine.  How about you?”  She shook her head from side to side.  “I didn’t see him.  His face just hit my window… I never saw him til the last second.  I saw his face.  He’s a white man.  I saw him ….”
I patted her shoulder.  “It’s okay.  You are fine.  You did great.  He’s alive and you are all okay.  Don’t worry.  Everything is going to be okay.”  She did not believe me when I said those words of comfort.
“No, did you call the police?” she asked, fear entering her already shattered voice.  I wondered if she was going to try to flee because of the way she asked about the police.  “It’s all going to be okay,” I said again.  “The police and ambulance are on the way.  You have to listen to me carefully right now.”  The woman nodded and looked into my eyes.  “You cannot leave.  You just have to sit here and wait for the police.  You didn’t do anything wrong so you have nothing to worry about.”  She nodded again.  The boys in the back seat stirred with the mention of the police and whispered to each other.  I heard the younger boy say, “They gonna take Momma?” The older boy just shrugged his shoulders.  It looked like the youngest was going to burst into tears so I leaned in the opened window and said to him, “Your Momma is a hero today.  She swerved your car and stopped in time to save that man’s life.  Nobody’s taking her anywhere.”  The boys both smiled a quick smile and then went silent again.  The woman reached up and took a hold of my hand.  Her hands were cold and shaking.  She was holding my right hand with both of her hands and she was looking at me with an earnest longing for hope.  “Did you see it?” she asked.  “Can you tell the police?”  Her question and the grip of her hands spoke volumes to me about her life experiences with police.  I smiled.  “I am a witness and I will tell the police what a great hero you are for saving this man’s life.”  I thought she was going to hug me through the opened window, so I slightly backed away.  “I’m going to go check on the man,” I told her, pulling away; my own personal issues were starting to show themselves.  (I do not particularly like it when strangers touch me.)In the next minutes the ambulance drivers moved the man to the ambulance and several police cars arrived.  One of St. Louis’ young officers hesitated to step out of his car and into the rain before he could slip his rain slicker on but he was too large to pull off such an acrobatic move in the front seat of a squad car.  He quickly threw the slicker into the passenger seat and pulled his massive body out of the car.  He pointed at me and said with an accusatory tone, “You the driver!”  I knew that he was asking me a question but it sounded like more of a statement.  I paused just a second and then responded.  I told him who I was and what I had been doing.  He asked me if I had been a witness and I assured him of what I had seen and heard.  I told him of the position of the car in the lane, the lack of any sign of the woman skidding on the wet pavement, the impact point of the man on the driver’s door, and the state of semi-shock of the driver.  I then urged him to be careful with her because her boys were scared that he was going to take her away.  I emphasized that she had done nothing wrong and that the man had literally run into the side of her moving vehicle.  The officer took my i.d., ran my name, found out that I am a legally clean person and then smiled.  “She’s lucky you’re here,” he said.  “Without an eye witness she’d be in trouble.”  I smiled, wiping the rain from my face.  “She saved his life,” I said, piling on my sympathy for the woman.  “Come with me,” the officer said as he moved to her car.  He leaned in the opened window and said, “Ma’am, are you okay?”  she said that she was.  He checked on the boys and they agreed that they were unharmed.  Then he said, “This man tells me that you swerved at the last second before you hit the victim.  Ma’am I want you to know that if you had not have done that he would not be doing as well as he is right now.  This man says that you saved the victim’s life and I tend to agree.  Boys, your Momma’s a hero.”  The boys beamed wide smiles.  The youngest boy reached out his hand and grabbed the older one’s hand.  The woman looked at me and said, “Thank you.”I’m sure I stood out in that rain for another thirty minutes before the police allowed me to leave and the woman to drive away.  Before she drove away the woman waved me over to her car.  I heeded her call and went to her again.  “I don’t even know who you are,” she said.  Her voice was much stronger and her hands were more steady.  “I just want to say thank you.”  I smiled.  “It was the least I could do,” I said.  “I’m just glad that you and the boys weren’t hurt.”  She looked at me quizzically.  Her eyebrows were raised as she tried to figure me out.  “What do you want from me?” she asked.  I was confused by her question.  “I don’t want anything.  I’m just glad you’re okay.” I smiled again.  “You don’t want anything?  Who are you?  Are you an angel?”  I laughed and nervously wiped my face.  “I’m no angel,” I said.  “I’m just a man.  Just a man who God put in the right place at the right time.”  She still wanted to hug me but I was keeping my distance.  (An angel would have taken the hug.)  “I want you to know something,” I said.  “God saved you, your boys and that man this evening.  None of this happened by accident.  I was here because God put me here.  Now, what do you think God is saying to you?”  I saw the instant connection of my words with her thoughts.  She did not hesitate to respond, “I gotta stop runnin’ from Him and go back to followin’ his Word and His ways.”

“Good for you,” I said, sounding patronizing.  “You sure you aint no angel?” she asked again.  I waved goodbye and walked away knowing that I was and still am far from angelic status.  The police officer looked up from his computer that was mounted off of the dashboard of his cruiser and waved goodbye.  He said thanks too.  I was soaked to the bone, my knees were knocking and my teeth were chattering.  I remembered the motivational speaker’s words, “Doing the little things for someone else, whether they know you are the one doing them or not, can change that person’s world.”  I wonder who’s world was changed the most that evening.  I know that mine certainly was.  I wonder if that young woman stopped her running and started following His Word and His ways.  It is my prayer that her running days are over.  
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