“Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers.” Third Epistle of John vs 5.
Last year on a beautiful summer Sunday morning, the boys and I were driving to church (my wife had gone ahead for a Primary meeting). As we approached the freeway exit, I noticed the light, for once, was actually green. Since we get off on a major street, if you miss it, you could wait several minutes. I also noticed that there was a man standing in the median with a sign next to him.
I’ve always been a little uncomfortable pulling up next to “them”, not knowing if I should roll down my window and say something, or “pretend” that I’m too busy. When the light turned yellow, I had to make a split second decision—step on it and hope to make the light (and believe me, if the kids were not sitting in the back, that would have been my first choice) or step on the brakes and have a few uncomfortable minutes. I stopped, right next to this man.
What was unusual about him, was his age (relatively young), his clothing (all white) and his looks. He had sandy blonde hair with a nicely trimmed beard, piercing blue eyes and a gentle smile. He was also reading a book on philosophy and had a dozen other books stacked next to his cart.
I rolled my window down and handed him something, and after saying thank you, he inquired of our destination. Now clearly, with everyone in the car wearing suits and ties, it was not too hard to figure it out.
“Are you going to church?”
“Yes” I replied.
“What church are you going to?”
I said the LDS church to which he replied, “So, you’re Mormons!”
I paused for a second and replied in the affirmative.
He then said that he used to read the Bible, but he had lost it in one of his moves. Without even thinking, I said, “If I brought you a Bible, would you read it again?” He quickly said yes, the light turned green and I took off for church.
Now the kids in the back seat were very interested as to what had just transpired and asked: “Daddy, are you really going to bring him a Bible?” I casually answered, “Yes, after church in about 3 hours, if he’s still here…”
All during sacrament meeting, I could not get this man out of my mind. Because of his countenance or his gentle spirit, I felt prompted to do it right after the meeting. I headed straight to the library and inquired about an extra Bible. Around the same time the sister missionaries (who by the way had been living in our home at the time) also came in. When I told them what I was waiting for, they said, “Don’t just give him the Bible, give him the quad!” I laughed and said, “That’s why you are the missionaries!”
I drove back parked my car in the nearest gas station and walked towards this man. As he saw me approaching, he stood up and whispered something, which I will NEVER forget: “I didn’t think you would come ….”
His words struck me so powerfully that I hesitated for a moment, before I replied, “Well, I told you I would.”
I didn’t know his particular circumstances or why he would say that, but I could imagine a myriad of broken promises in his past. After saying thank you, he picked up the scriptures and with a confused look asked me why they were SO heavy. I chuckled and told him that there some additional scriptures that I thought he’d enjoy reading! With tears in his eyes he said the words “God bless you” and I replied “God bless you too!”
As I started to walk to my car, I became completely overwhelmed emotionally…To this day, I’m still not sure why I cried that day…I just felt a deep connection with a total stranger which really only lasted but a few minutes. After church, as we drove past the exit, I saw that he was gone and every Sunday since then, I have looked for him, but unfortunately with no success.
I know that keeping our promises, even the little ones, makes us feel better on the inside. As for the impact that it has for those on the receiving end…we might never find out, but let’s keep doing it faithfully “…to the brethren and to strangers.”
Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.
Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.