It was Valentine's Day, 1994 and I was on my way home from taking flowers and chocolate out to my great aunt who lived at the Presbyterian Manor across town. It was bitterly cold and snow was flying in the air; not the hard, wind-driven snow that stops a town in its tracks, but flakes that begin as downy feathers and gradually accelerate into a substantial snowfall.
The children, 4 and nearly 2 at the time, were buckled in their car seats in the back, bundled tightly in winter paraphernalia. We were thankful to be just a few blocks away from the warmth and coziness of home.
We passed by a new housing development where several men were working on the frame of a large, two-story home. Faces red inside the unprotected skeleton of the house, they worked deligently at their task, hoping - I'm sure - for a reprieve from the cold and wet environment. I thought of my own husband, out on the road in his delivery truck, and of my father, who spent many years climbing telephone poles and crawling underneath houses to work on phone lines.
Instead of going through the traffic light and driving the last mile home, we turned north and headed towards McDonald's where I purchased several orders of cheeseburgers, fries and coffee. We then returned to the housing development where only two men were left, still working out in the cold.
"Hello!" I called, as I stepped out of the car, bags in hand. I told the gentlemen that we had passed by and thought they could use something to warm them up. There was a look of great surprise on their faces as one of them stepped forward, extended his hand and introduced himself. He came over to the car and helped bring out the coffee, thanking me profusely. As I pulled away, they waved then immediately sat down to enjoy their lunch. It seemed the right thing to do on a snowy Valentine's Day; extending a hand to a stranger...showing concern for a fellow man.
If I could have, I would've packed them up and taken them to the best restaurant in town or brought a large tarp and heaters into the place where they were working. We can't always do exactly what we want to help someone, but we can almost always do something to make a positive impact to their day.
I didn't give my name during the introduction, but merely said how nice it was to meet them. I wanted to be an anonymous name: a face that would gradually fade through the years, but a memory I hoped would linger....and inspire. I wanted to secure their smiles in hopes that they would view others as the possible benefactor and in turn, give to someone else in need.
Sometimes it's inconvenient....sometimes we have to go out of our way, but I feel it is what we were meant to do on this earth: to love our neighbor, not just as ourselves, but sometimes...in spite of ourselves.