To life!

Traveling Mercies

Posted on: July 27, 2010

Sunlight dancing through the darkness of a bread fruit tree in Ghana

Last Saturday, with temperatures soaring above 100, I was driving on Richmond Highway in blinding sunshine when my car locked down and refused to budge. The car is equipped with a safety mechanism that makes it rebel when the engine reaches a certain temperature. Beside me sat my friend’s teenage daughter, with her younger brother stretched out in the back.  My first plea was, Dear God, don’t let anyone hit us!

I had no idea where the hazard lights’ button was, so I opened the door and got out to wave and direct traffic. We were in the middle of nowhere with nothing but greenery and some town houses tucked behind them.  Meanwhile the car was sweltering and I was worried about the children cooking.  Suddenly, there pulled beside me a white car filled with three of the blackest people I had ever seen… please don’t jump all over me. I’m black myself. But here’s the thing.  When I was growing up in Ghana, I knew no Jamaicans, and the only people with rasta-like hair were dirty, mad men.  What’s more, the night before, I had dreamt about being stranded on the highway, with cars full of black faces passing me by. The dream had filled me with sadness, when I saw the guys I thought, Oh no, here it comes. That they wore scruffy jeans and had thick rasta hair falling all over their backs only served to increase my anxiety.

I slid back inside the car and shut the door. The driver peered inside and asked if I was in trouble, but the cat had my tongue. I could only pant. Then he spoke Twi to me and voilá, the cat let go. They were Ghanaians. I felt safe. (Funny how prejudiced one can be.) They came out of their car, poked around, got me to start the car again and offered to drive behind me to the townhouse they were visiting. “We don’t want the police to tow your car”.  So stopping and starting, my car made it up to the townhouse where a visitor’s parking spot awaited next to a shady tree.

The guys made us take refuge in the shade and brought us bottles of iced water and extra ice in glasses. What’s interesting is they were from Maryland and had driven to Virginia to help settle a quarrel between a girl and her boyfriend.  The couple was inside yelling away, that’s why they didn’t invite us in. These guys stayed with us until they were sure someone was on his way to pick us up, after they had offered to drive us.

“Today is Sunday,” one said, “God’s day. No one should be stranded by the roadside in the heat.”

Call it Fortune, Supreme Being, the universe what you will, but I believe in the God who sends us refreshment and traveling mercies now and again when we need it, if only as a reminder of love in this harsh world. And I learned an awful truth about myself, how much I judge people by their appearance.

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5 Responses to "Traveling Mercies"

“I believe in the God who sends us refreshment and traveling mercies now and again when we need it, if only as a reminder in this harsh world”….beautifully put, I”m so glad you were taken care of! 🙂

And listen, we all follow a certain shorthand of “archetypes” which help us identify groups, but that’s much more of a brain thing than a character thing, and it can be quickly overcome, so don’t fret!

Thanks, Romi, that’s so sweet of you!

Yup, I call it divine providence. I think we all do it…judge people by appearances and then feel really ashamed when they act in a way that’s opposite from what we expect.

I know!! I wish I could totally eliminate this tendency to put people into little packets and label them!

Wonderful post! God isn’t a dirty word!

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