Trust Between Strangers
My mother and I were in a Kroger parking lot when we were stopped by a woman we had never seen before. It was about nine o’clock at night in the middle of December, but we stopped and listened anyway, the chilling wind whipping our scarves and hair into our faces.
“Excuse me,” the woman stammered, “I realize that this may sound strange, but do you think you could give me a ride home? My car is broken down, so I walked here, but now it’s so dark…” Her eyes searched our faces, an expression of stranded panic speaking words that were going unsaid. This was like the beginning of every horror movie we had ever seen. But we could imagine being in her situation, how miserable and dangerous it would be to walk home alone through the night and the snow. We gave each other a deciding look.
“Yeah,” said Mom, “Sure, get in.”
The difference between that night and a horror movie was that the woman that we drove home did not turn out to be a serial killer. She was a former WCC student with a broken-down car and a condominium by the library and a grown daughter of whom she was very proud.
After she got out of the car, my mom and I talked about what we’d just done. It dawned on us how scary this whole thing must have been for her. It dawned on us that she may have chosen us to ask for a ride because we looked safe.
There is a mural in the basement of St. Andrew’s Church, where I volunteer serving breakfast to homeless people and having friendly conversations with them. The mural shows a group of people going through the breakfast line, and one of the people in the back of the line is Jesus. There is no way of knowing who you are dealing with when you encounter a stranger. I understand that this makes trust between strangers difficult and even dangerous at times, but I also believe that it makes that trust the most profound and beautiful interaction between people in the world. I believe that trust changes people, it heals people, and it reassures people that there is a unity between all members of the human race. So when a homeless man at the breakfast program tells me that I look pretty that day, I smile and thank him and tell him that the way he fixes his toast reminds me of my grandpa. And if I should meet another stranded woman like the one at Kroger, she will be welcome in my car.