People often ask me about maintaining their safety while pursuing a brave and kind life. How do we know if we're supposed to give a homeless person money, or stop to help the car on the side of the road?
My answer might sound flippant, but I mean it sincerely: follow your heart. If your heart says "stop," then stop. If your heart says, "Not this time," then take that as a cue to keep moving.
A husband and wife were on the same page as far as hearts go when they recently came across a person who needed someone to see him.
"We were on our way home from church and the whole family was in the car. It is about a 35-minute drive with most of it highway driving. It was a cold, rainy, gray morning and we saw a guy wearing a hooded sweatshirt with a backpack walking alongside the road. He looked young and pretty small and was on a section of the highway that suggested he was going to be walking for miles.
"My husband and I both noticed him as we drove past and we both began thinking the same thing: We have to stop and offer him a ride.
"My husband made a quick U-turn and immediately our kids started asking questions. 'What are we doing?' 'Why are you turning around?' 'Who is that guy?' 'Isn't he a stranger?'
"My heart began beating faster as we tried to explain to our kids that we wanted to help him by giving him a ride.
"I felt more safe with my husband driving, but still very vulnerable with all the kids in the car. I started wondering what we would do if he had a gun in his backpack. As we pulled up to the guy, we realized he's a kid.
"He was surprised by our van pulling up, but when we asked if he wanted a ride, he quickly said yes and jumped into the car.
"It turns out 'Noah' is 13 years old and was planning on walking 20 miles that morning to his cousin's trailer park home. He was hungry for a breakfast sandwich and Mountain Dew that we grabbed for him from a gas station.
"It sounds like Noah has lived many places in his 13 years on Earth. I don't know the situation with his mom and dad. He just said he woke up early that morning to start walking and we were the only ones to stop.
"Hopefully, the $20 my husband gave him helps to keep his belly full, but more importantly, we hope he knows the family in the blue van cares about him."
Sometimes we long to save someone when all we can really do is see them through one step of their journey. No, we can't do everything, but when our heart tells us to stop, you can bet many hearts will feel the impact of that moment.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.