Tonight while driving home from a friend’s house, I almost hit a kid walking in the road.
A few seconds after passing him, I felt impressed to turn around and offer him a ride.
When I went back past him on the opposite side of the road, I rolled-down my window and asked if he needed anything.
He said “No,” and kept walking.
It was clear he was messed-up. He was only wearing one shoe and stumbling more than walking. His leg was badly cut-up, like he had gone through some deep shrubbery. He could barely communicate. He was on a rural road with nothing for at least three miles.
He just kept walking down the road as I re-turned around to head back toward my house.
I couldn’t shake it.
This kid could very likely get hit by a car and die tonight. It’s not uncommon in a college town.
I drove up next to him and asked, “Where are you going man?”
“Clemson, core campus,” he replied.
“Hop in the car man. Let me get you home,” I said.
He hesitated, then got in the car.
It took almost 15 minutes driving down rural roads, at 50ish MPH, and with zero traffic to get to campus. I found out he was a freshman. He really wanted to play football on the team. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.
“Do you get paid to drive people around like this?” he asked me.
“No. This isn’t an everyday occurrence. I don’t go out of my way to do stuff like this. But I saw you and didn’t feel good about it,” I replied. “I did serve a church mission though, so this isn’t weird for me.”
“Yeah, this is actually the kind of stuff I want to do,” he said. “It’s hard being at college. I feel like I have to grow up fast. I have to figure out who I want to be, like now.”
We shared a few more words. I let him know that regardless of the decisions he’s made, his future is as bright as he wants it to be. He has the choice. He can turn things around. But he needs to decide who he wants to be. I also told him that who he surrounds himself with is potentially the most important indicator of the future he will have and the person he will become.
When we pulled-up to his apartments, he looked me directly in the eyes. Although he wasn’t sober, and likely won’t remember how he got home, I could see something in his eyes.
This was an important moment.
Something so small.
I didn’t tell this story to get praise. What I did was so small. But that 18 year old kid is so important. I will probably never see him again.
But after I dropped him off, I felt humbled and grateful for such an opportunity.
These small, seemingly insignificant opportunities are everywhere around us. Most of the time, we’re too busy going about our lives to notice them. We’re too caught up in our own agendas to realize the pain all around us.
Are we too busy listening to books about how to be successful and happy? Reading and study won’t get you to stop and actually help someone. To go out of your way and interject yourself into someone else’s life. That is a choice you must make. All the information can even block that intuitive voice if you haven’t learned to respond to it.
Most people will reject your offer to help. Getting help requires vulnerability and humility. Most people would rather suffer than get help.
Sometimes you’ll need to be persistent. You’ll need to ask several times, as I did tonight.
I’m not saying you need to always be available. Quite the contrary. You absolutely need to focus in on your life and do well. Just don’t be so busy that you miss those opportunities that are crucial. Don’t be so busy that you don’t hear your inner voice when it speaks to you. Never let a goal to be accomplished become more important than a person to be loved.
You can do more good than you think.
The littlest things really do make the biggest difference.
Very few people get deep and caring, thoughtful, affirmation. When I was 19 years old, my life was a wreck. I had made lots of mistakes. I didn’t have much confidence in myself. A friend of mine spent just a few minutes telling me he knew I’d been through a lot in my life. He told me he was proud of me, and that I was making some great progress. He was completely sincere.
They were just a few words. But I couldn’t contain the feelings or the tears. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I’ve had. And it was so simple. But so important. That was 8 years ago and it still impacts me to this day.
You don’t have to be a guru to care about someone. All you have to do is truly care, to listen, and to love. A few words of support can go an extremely long way.
Please don’t miss those moments. There are people all around you who could use some love and care. It doesn’t take much. You don’t have to be eloquent or a genius. You just have to care, and to have the courage to open your mouth.