“Lord, who is my neighbour?”

It was a cold, Sunday night in late February. My wife and I exited an evening service at church to snow-covered steps, in an ongoing snowstorm.

“Wow! That fell fast!” I exclaimed

“Yeah, must be 20 centimetres,” said my wife–Esther–as we carefully made our way down the steps, towards the small parking lot attached to church.

Our car sat covered in snow, above it and around it. I opened the car door and reached for the snow removal stick to wipe snow off the car. My wife entered our 2001 Toyota Corolla to heat it up.

While wiping the snow away in the minus 15 cold, I thought back to a prayer request during church for the Arab refuges crossing the Canadian border from the States. I couldn’t imagine crossing the border in mid winter, especially in a snowstorm.

When finished, I joined my wife in the car. She wanted to drive but decided to complete a few work calls before leaving. So, I sat there as time passed.

A while later, she started the engine and lightly pressed the gas.

“Brrrrslssshhhhhhh,” came the sound of the wheels, spinning in place on the ice.

She tried again.

“Brshhhhhhhhh….”

No luck. We were kept in place by a thick blanket of ice hidden beneath growing layers of snow.

“I’ll go push,” I said, exiting the car.

Behind the vehicle, I placed my hands on both ends of the back and steadied my feet.

“Okay, go!” I shouted. 

My wife pressed the gas, as I pushed and pushed with all my strength. The car moved only a few feet before once again spinning in place on the ice covered ground.

We kept trying, but made no progress. Even with our metal tracks for the wheels, it wouldn’t move. 

We tried for 30 minutes, but my cold and wet feet forced me back inside the car.

By then, it was late–passed 11pm–and the temperature wasn’t getting warmer. I suggested we take the bus and come back tomorrow with help. But my wife’s persistence kept us trying. She wasn’t willing to give up just yet. Besides, even if she wanted to take the bus, she had too much work equipment to transport. 

We were really stuck.

As I warmed my feet, my wife called emergency services. The first service told her they couldn’t help, unless we renewed our account with them. There was no way we could afford the renewal fee, not with our student budget.

My wife then tried our insurance company. The lady on the other end informed us that our insurance plan doesn’t cover roadside assistance. The lady did–at least– provide phone numbers for nearby towing companies. But of course, these would cost money.

Thankfully, the first towing company we called was not too expensive. We called them at 11:50.

“We close in 10 minutes; we won’t be able to add your car to our towing list.” said the receptionist. “My truck is already out there getting another car.”

“Okay… well, could you direct us to another service or something else?” 

“Sorry Ma’am, I can’t help you. We’re closing.”

We were left in the -15 snowstorm.

I sighed, deciding to go back outside and try breaking the ice with our metal wheel tracks. It would take a while, but at least we’d be making progress.

Grabbing a metal track, I began smashing the ice and praying to God, asking what I might learn from this situation. My first thought–as if in reply to my prayer– was patience. I’m learning patience.

Lost in thought while breaking the ice, I didn’t notice someone approach me from behind.

“Can I help you sir?” came a middle-eastern accent.

I turned around to see a tall Arab man, who sincerely wanted to help.

“Sure,” I replied, motioning to the back of the car. “Thank you. Thank you so much!” I said as we positioned ourselves behind the car.

When we signaled my wife, she pressed the gas and we pushed. But–again–the car barely budged.

The man turned to me: “I can get more people.”

“Okay, thank you! That’s awesome!” 

 I didn’t wait long before he returned with two other men.

Once behind the car, we counted: “1… 2… 3… go!” My wife pressed the gas. This time, with the force of four men, we moved the car halfway across the parking lot. After a couple more tries, including a push through a 3 foot snow mound, we safely removed the car from the ice infested parking lot.

I gathered the tire tracks, as my wife offered the men a 20$ bill, but they refused. We insisted and insisted, but still they refused. 

“I just saw you from my kitchen,” the first man said, pointing to a nearby apartment complex, “and I knew you needed help. You don’t have to pay me for that.”

Instead, he gave me the shovel they had used to clear out the snow. “Take it in case you get stuck again.” 

Deeply touched, I smiled at them and asked, “Do you know the good samaritan from Jesus’ parable?”

They nodded.

“That’s you guys tonight,”

We all smiled.

“May God bless you for this.”

“God bless you too,” they said. “Be safe on your way home.”

Entering the car, I thought again about the refuges crossing the Canadian border, as a tear trickled down my cheek.

“What’s wrong?” my wife asked.

“The Samaritans… in the Bible. They were rejected by the Jews, seen as outcasts. We treat Muslims the same… worse even. Yet it was Muslims who helped us tonight.”

Tears welled in both our eyes, as we thanked God for the good Samaritans–our neighbours.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man…? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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