The Nameless


Ever had a car you were ready to get rid of and simply wished somebody would crash into it so you could get the insurance money? I had a car like that—actually I have had several.  This one was a maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. It was part of the package deal when my wife & I married. The miles had piled up. The dash and the fabric on the seats were faded. It was time to move on.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Somebody wrecked it?

Somebody did. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I was on my way back to my office one afternoon. It was raining. Carter County, Tennessee has plenty of winding two lane roads; I was on one of them. Traveling on the outside lane of a narrow curve I didn’t even have time to react as a car traveling in the opposite direction hydroplaned, crossed the center of the road and whacked our Olds. Picture perfect. The accident pushed me off to the shoulder where I came to an abrupt stop. I wasn’t injured, but the car sustained significant damage. My prayers had been answered. Somebody had wrecked our car.

The driver of the other car, along with her child who had been strapped into his car seat, was uninjured. No one was hurt.

As I went to check on the other driver a sobering reality set in. At that time I was pastor of a small church in Elizabethton, Tennessee. On a good Sunday we would have 150 people at our morning worship service. Elizabethton was a city of 13,000 people. It is the county seat for Carter County; population 50,000.  I realize these numbers are quite small compared to the metro and suburban areas where many of us live. Yet, what are the chances that the person who hit me would be someone who attended my church?

As I approached the driver of the other vehicle, Somebody suddenly had a name.  She and her husband had recently moved to town and had been visiting our church.  Her husband was a student at a nearby school that trained future missionary pilots. Many of these students, and their families, made our church their home for the three years of schooling.

She was crying as she unbuckled her son from the car seat.  Suddenly, with mind opening guilt, I wished Somebody hadn’t wrecked my car. All I could say was “I am sorry.”

The Somebody I hoped would crash my car was nameless. The Somebody who did crash my car had a name.  This wasn’t an imaginary person; she was real. She was in a new town. She had a young family. If she and her husband were like most of the students there for missionary aviation training, they were struggling to pay the bills. She didn’t need to have her car wrecked. She didn’t need to have her insurance rates increased. She didn’t need to feel the embarrassment of being at fault in an accident. This was a not a good moment for her. It was painful.

I am ashamed to say that it took an accident on that rainy afternoon to teach me a lesson I should have already mastered. I had never considered that my gain would mean someone else’s loss. The Somebodies of the world are real people, with real names, with real lives. The Somebodies are like me. They have families. They have feelings. They have heartaches. They have dreams. They have struggles. They have passions. –They may be nameless to us, but they are not nameless.

I learned that day that we are to love the nameless.  When Jesus said to love your neighbor he wasn’t referring to only those we know by name, but the host of people we encounter or may encounter.

The nameless are all around. They are not just the no-name drivers in the cars we meet on the road, but they are the servers at the restaurant. They are the players, and their parents, opposing our child’s soccer team. They are the toll booth operators. They are the competitors who lose an account when we make the sale. They are the flood victims mentioned in the newscast. They are our employees down the line. They are the ones who lost the house we are buying for a song. They are the other two not selected for the job opening. They are the students who sit alone at lunch. They are the unnamed young girls trafficked through our city. They are the shoppers reaching for the last remaining bargain on the shelf.  They are people, perhaps nameless to us, yet certainly not nameless.

May I never forget that Somebody, though nameless to me, is someone.

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