Moving Forward: Help From a Stranger

by Bud Babcock, Director of Operations, Presbytery of Cincinnati

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

  • Luke 10:33 – 36

Not long ago I was running errands, one of which was to return some equipment to a local vendor.  I piled the equipment in a large cardboard box and loaded it into the back of my SUV.  When I got to my destination, I went to the back of my vehicle, put up the hatch, pulled out the box, took a step back and pondered the best way to close the hatch.  As I went through this exercise, there was a young black man in the car next to me who was watching me struggle with the box.  Also I am sure he noticed that I walk with a limp due to an old leg injury, so he looked up at me and said, ”Sir, can I help you?”

Yes, please can you put the hatch down for me?  He jumped out of his car and did so, then he opened the door to the vendor and offered to carry the box the rest of the way in to the service counter.  I told him I could make it the rest of the way OK, and thanked him profusely.  I also said a quick silent prayer thanking the Lord for sending me a Good Samaritan and for providing this young man with parents who clearly raised him right.  And for the record, I mentioned the young man’s race simply because at this time of discord and rancor across the land, it is important to tell stories like this; my guess is that they are far more common than the stories of strife and dissension.

Flashback to a number of years ago.  For a long time I was an avid runner – I usually ran about 5 times a week and did 3 – 6 miles per run.  I recall this particular day was Fathers’ Day – a warm, humid June day.  I strapped on the sneakers and got ready to do about 5 miles.  Now at the time I was a year-round, all-weather runner, so I was used to going in the heat.  This time was different, though.  About a mile or so into the run, I started to get a clammy feeling and came down with a terrific headache.  I then did something I never used to do when I ran: I stopped and sat down to collect myself.  I was sitting next to a mailbox at the end of the homeowner’s driveway.  He happened to be out working on his flower beds so he came over to me, sat down next to me, told me he was a doctor, took my pulse, and examined my eyes.  He told me to get into his car so he could take me home.

Now, there have been times in my life when I feel ornery and do not take well to being told what to do.  But this guy meant business, so I picked myself up and climbed into his car.  He drove me home, told me to wait in the car, walked in through the garage and opened the door without knocking.  My wife Karen was standing nearby in the kitchen, and my Good Samaritan said, ”Don’t panic, I’m a doctor.  Your husband is in my car and he’s in trouble; I need you to call an ambulance now.”  Karen did as he asked, and within minutes an ambulance pulled into the driveway.  Two burly EMT’s strapped me to a gurney, loaded me into the back of the ambulance, and hauled me off to Bethesda North Hospital, which is about 5 minutes from my house.

Again, the Lord provided another Samaritan in the emergency room.  When the EMT’s explained my symptoms to the intake nurse, she immediately assigned me to an examination room and summoned the Head of Neurology who happened to be on duty that day.  When I described my headache symptoms he did a brain scan, but the scan did not reveal the problem.  Or as my younger son Gavin said later, ”They did a brain scan on Dad and didn’t find anything!” So Dr. Lewis then sedated me, inserted a catheter into my thigh, ran it up to my brain, and diagnosed a leaking aneurysm. He turned to Karen, who had followed the ambulance to the hospital, and told her he needed permission to operate NOW.  She granted it of course, I was rolled into an operating room, anesthetized, and that is the last moment of consciousness I had for about a week.  The surgeon clipped the aneurysm, and the clip has held to this day.

While I was in the OR Karen called our teenage boys, who were at a friend’s house.  The friend and his parents were members of the church we were attending at the time, so when Karen told them what happened they loaded Trevor and Gavin into their car and rushed to the hospital.  In the meantime, they contacted a few other church friends along with our Pastor, so while I was in the OR there were about 15 folks from the church holding my family’s hands in the waiting room and praying in earnest for a good surgical outcome.  They were greatly relieved after a few hours when the surgeon came out, told them he had successfully clipped the aneurysm, and that I could expect a full recovery – which is what happened.

I received another full measure of grace from my employer.  Even though I was unable to work for about 6 weeks, he kept me on full salary and benefits.  That was an enormous relief given the size of the medical bills which started rolling in. 

Now, let’s recount the coincidences; when I went down, I was immediately assisted by a nearby doctor.  When I got home, an ambulance became available on a moment’s notice.  When I got to the emergency room, the head of neurology happened to be on duty and available.  He knew exactly what he was looking for based on the way my symptoms presented, knew precisely what tests to run, made the correct diagnosis, and surgically prepared the leak.  My sons happened to be at a good friend’s house, and their family got in touch with other friends so that my family was surrounded by love in the hour of their greatest fear.

My guess is that many of you are thinking by now, “Dude, that’s too many coincidences!”  You are exactly right.  At every moment of the ordeal, God provided me with exactly the right resource at exactly the right time.  His hand was in every minute of the experience, and I thank him daily for my health, my family, and my brothers and sisters in Christ.