Lent III: A Samaritan Bucket Brigade
I was not in my clericals, and my 1994 Honda standard hatch with no power anything let alone air conditioning was worth more for its parts than its blue book value. The car just ku-klunked to a halt. I put it in neutral and pushing against the door jam while steering pulled it to the curb. The flashers didn't work. I got back in the car, buttoned my coat, took my money, insurance card and registration, locked it and started walking.
Miraculously I found a gas station of a fashion. It was more of a storefront with a garage sliding door on which had been spray painted "FLAT FIX". I rang and banged the adjacent door because I saw a small light on. A slight man speaking Spanish said through the key drop "You immigration?". 'No, my car is dead about 2 ½ blocks from here'. "What you want from me?" he snapped sarcastically. 'I need help and have nowhere to go and don't know where I am'.
After a few choice words he called to some of his male relatives in the back. They came out each dressed in layers, but light ones and followed me to the car. I had left my clergy placard on the dash with a note (I was near a hydrant and there was snow and encrusted ice ruts in the street) just in case. That night a colleague had given me a Jerusalem rosary which I had hung in back of the rear view mirror -- not something I was or am in the habit of doing.
The four small men got together --one at the wheel, the other three pushing and guiding my beleaguered white car with the duck-taped hood back to their garage. I followed as quickly as I could.
Once inside the garage the owner - or mechanic - said in halting English: "Sister, you shouldn't be up here now. It's not so good." My mind was agreeing with him totally, but my face must have been in such pain over the situation he just shook his head, called me a Gringa and went to work.
The battery was dead so he and his brother hooked it up to an electric charger and he turned on the small electric heater closer to the closed door which he had locked behind him. I explained in poor Spanish who I was and how I got here. 'Soy diacona.' "No es Pastor?" Good question..a pastor but not a Pastor. 'No, hermano. Diacona.' He explained that I was a church worker. His wife brought me down some hot rice and beans very kindly.
The battery was charged. They pulled back the exhaust hose. I gave him all the money I had..about $45 dollars plus my emergency $10 dollar bill and the change. It wasn't the kind of place that took credit cards. 'If I owe you more, just send me a number to this address - the same as on my license - and I'll send you the rest.' After all my fumbling spoken Spanish he tried his English. "Why you come to here?" I told him the truth. I prayed to see the light - and when I saw the light through the slats I started banging. "You bang good, Sister! Now I ask you - you oracion - you pray for me and my family?" I said yes and they came down the boxed off staircase the teenagers and adults and pregnant sisters and babies in Huggies and blankets. I prayed the only thing I had written on a card in Spanish I kept in my wallet from doing CPE at St. Luke's Hospital. As soon as I began they all bowed their heads
El Senor nos bendigas y nos guardes. Ahmeyn.
El Senor haga resplandecer su rostro sobre nosotros y nos sea propicio. Ahmeyn.
El Senor alce su rostro sobres nosotros y nos conceda la paz. Ahmeyn.*
*The Lord bless us and keep us. Amen.
The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. Amen.
The Lord life up his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.
They all smiled and said thank you. Some of them hugged me. Driving off, Martin (the mechanic)"Hasta luego" Later! I haven't seen them since and the shop has obviously changed hands several times over.
My grammar and accent may have been wrong, but the intention was there. Although I had come to them, asking them a favor, they complied and went beyond that in unusual circumstances. Then they turned around and asked me to give them something more than the tangible remuneration - they asked for prayer and I shared with them the blessing of Abraham.
The woman at the well was a Samaritan. Their holiest place was not Jerusalem and they were not Jews. Jesus - as a Jew - should never have spoken to a woman, a strange woman, and a woman from a clan the Jews despised as heretics. He should not have asked her for a drink: if he drank from any of her utensils he would have been unclean. That did not stop him and it did not stop her. After gaining some insight about whom each of them were, she wanted that living water only He could provide. She believed in him so strongly that she convinced others to come and see and listen. Others did come and - in hearing him - drank deeply from the water of belief that He provided.
Imagine it, if you will. They believed and told others who told others who told others. Although we never read that the woman at the well ever gave Jesus even a drop to drink, surely in converts to this Good News the Samaritans had established a bucket brigade. Pray we do the same. Amen.