People Like Us

The Road Home, Part 2

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Pictured: Me with a relative (Sherry) who stopped by while we were stranded in our truck in the parking lot. They were unable to help us.

Hope enveloped me, and excitement coursed through my body as I realized that, though I had traveled a great distance, the trip was far from over. In fact, it had only just begun.

I sat with my back against the cab of the truck, as far away from the traffic as possible. I drew my knees into my chest and rested my head on my arms. “God, I need you,” I began. My prayer was interrupted, or perhaps answered, when lights unexpectedly shone on our truck. I could hear the faint sound of my father talking with someone, and then he called to us.

“Let’s go!” My father shouted. I climbed out of the truck, and followed my parents to where a petite, older woman stood. She greeted us with a warm smile, and quickly made room for us in her large sedan.

“It’s a miracle that I even saw you,” she began excitedly. “I just came into town for a loaf of bread and some milk. I never go home that way, but for some reason I decided to take the interstate this time.” She actually seemed pleased to be able to help, I thought.

“It’s so dangerous out there,” she continued. “I’m so glad you are all okay. God was really watching out for you tonight. You can all stay at my house, and we’ll call a tow truck for your vehicle. My son is a mechanic, so maybe he can help. Are you all hungry?” she asked. The woman’s excited chatter took us all off-guard, and I was amazed at the warmth with which she had greeted us.

“H-hey thanks, we appreciate it,” my father stammered with surprise.

We drove up to a brick home at the end of a dusty lane. The glowing lights of the home welcomed us, matching the demeanor of our hostess.

“You guys come in and make yourself at home. I’ll make some dinner for us.” The woman held the door open and escorted us in, as if we were expected and cherished guests. “By the way, my name is Margaret Clemens, but you can call me Margaret.”

Margaret cooked a wonderful meal, and visited with us as if we were family. As we all sat around the large dining table, I felt as though I had always known her. She listened sympathetically as my parents regaled her with our recent “adventures” and, though I searched for it, I didn’t see the familiar judgments written on her face, or hear them in her voice. In fact, Margaret showed nothing but respect for us – something that was so unbelievable to me.

Margaret arranged for her son to repair our truck, and was the perfect hostess during those few days. We spent time resting and getting to know our new friend, all in the comfort of her beautiful home. One afternoon I found myself alone with Margaret.

“Have you ever been to church?” Margaret asked casually. An awkward silence followed. I ducked my head, afraid of saying the wrong thing. “Yes ma’am, some of our neighbors used to take me to church, and my Grandma goes too. Mama believes in God, she talks about Him but doesn’t go to church.  My father though, he has said before that he doesn’t know if there is a God.” I immediately wished I hadn’t shared so much, and I hoped she wouldn’t regret that she had helped us.

Margaret’s soft voice comforted me. “It’s okay, you know. We will just have to pray harder for your father, that’s all. God hears our prayers. Don’t ever give up, Karen.” Her kind, softly spoken words were so unexpected, so meaningful, that I lifted my head and looked at her in surprise. She was smiling with tears in her eyes, and her face shone with love. I returned her smile, and simply nodded.

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Pictured: Margaret, taken the day we left her home

Early that afternoon, our truck was repaired and ready-to-go. Margaret walked us to our truck, just as if we were her children and grandchildren leaving after a visit.

“Now, be careful and keep in touch. Let me know how you are doing,” she instructed. She hugged us all and gave us a bag of groceries, hoping to sustain us on the trip.

My father shook her hand gratefully. “Thank you, I really do appreciate what you have done,” he said sincerely.

“You are very welcome,” Margaret replied.

I hugged her, smiled and waved goodbye, as the sound of gravel crunched under the weight of our truck rolling down the driveway.

Contemplative thoughts swirled in my head as we traveled. I thought of the questions I had, and recalled our experiences on this trip. I thought of those who had been helpful to us, but only out of a sense of duty. Though I was grateful for their help, it was bittersweet—our immediate needs had been met, but those judgmental expressions would be ever-burned into my memory. It seemed they had both given and taken something, because of the manner in which they gave. Then I thought of Margaret, of her kind and loving heart, and began to cry. I hadn’t believed there were people like her in the world. I wanted nothing more than to be like her – to just love people for exactly who they are. I began to thank God for taking care of me, and to ask forgiveness for all of my doubts.  I suddenly knew—no, felt—such love and warmth around me. I could feel the presence of God with me, and I knew I would never again feel alone.

 As we crossed over the Texas state line, I realized that God had been with me in the back of that truck the entire time. He had shown His love for me through the actions of Margaret, which I would never forget. Margaret taught me the importance of a giving and loving heart, and demonstrated to me how one kindness shared with love can change the lives of many. Hope enveloped me, and excitement coursed through my body as I realized that, though I had traveled a great distance, the trip was far from over. In fact, it had only just begun.

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I believe that my encounter with Margaret completely changed the course of my life. Her influence led to my own unwavering faith in God, and her example of unconditional love made me want to know Him more. One positive statement, one smile, one act of love can create light in the darkest of circumstances. I hope you will never miss an opportunity to be “Margaret” to someone else.

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Pictured: Me at Margaret’s home

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