(This post is by Joel Hylton, a good friend and elder at New City)
Yesterday, I performed a simple act of kindness toward a young woman, one which any of you would do. It turned into something more profound. Reflecting on what happened, I believe it was an answer to prayers, both my own prayers for repentance and the prayers of our tiny congregation on Sunday—for the people of Paris, the people of the Middle East, against a backlash, and that somehow our Father would bring his peace and show the love of Christ through us.
Yesterday, I changed a young woman’s tire. As she drove home from her work, she felt something wrong but decided not to stop on the busy highway. By the time she pulled into our urban hamlet, her rim had almost completely sliced through her tire walls. She tried knocking at nearby houses and then saw me out walking.
Neatly dressed, a kind face, a pleasant smile, she asked me if I knew how to change a tire. In a few moments, the jack was on and the tire tool in my hand. As I worked, I noticed a cut almost parallel to her treads and thought that she must’ve driven over something.
We exchanged names, then spellings. She told me that her name is of Pakistani origin and that she’s second generation. After a moment, I told her that I hoped that she would not suffer from ill-will after the Paris attacks. She said that she’d already asked her mother, who wears a head scarf, to avoid going out alone. A few years back her uncle had been stabbed to death. When they caught his killer, he said that he was targeting Muslims. In the last few days, a fellow employee shocked her by asking if she supports the Paris atrocities. As I finished, I told her how sorry I was and that we had prayed against this kind of hate and reprisal at church on Sunday.
Then she said she didn’t understand how this tire could’ve gone flat. A mechanic had just checked them three days before. We looked together at the old tire, examining the wall and then the tread for defects until we came back to the cut I’d seen before. It was clean around the edges and as long as my index finger. While driving, she’d heard nothing to indicate she’d run over anything large enough to make that cut. She parks in a large unguarded garage when she goes to work at 4:30 am. It dawned on us at about the same time that most likely someone had slashed her tire—only days after the Paris attack—because she’s brown skinned and Muslim.
She was surprisingly calm. I was probably more visibly upset than she was. I chose not to say that she could’ve died on that highway, that the tire could’ve blown in 70+ mile per hour traffic. I was so moved that I asked her if she’d like for me to pray for her and her family. She said “yes” without hesitation. Out loud, I prayed my anger and sadness, my plea for safety and justice and peace and for repentance on the part of her attacker. We were both silent for a moment. Then she insisted on giving me a box of chocolates a co-worker had just given her that day.
I wanted to hug her as we said goodbye. I want even more for someone to protect her and her family. I want someone to love and protect my family when I am not there to do so. I want the end of hate.
How could someone slice the tire of this innocent young woman? How could they conscience the fact that she could’ve died on the freeway, ignoring the odd feel in the car until it was too late?
How do we as Christians help bring the peace of God to this fallen world, to call people to repent of hatred—any hatred and judgment? As I write, I am remembering an incident one morning about a week ago. Three women were walking a crowd of children toward me on their way to school. I became angry when it was obvious they were choosing to ignore me, with no effort to make room for me on the broad sidewalk. I grumbled after they passed. I don’t know if they heard me, but I quickly realized that they probably would’ve received it as racist. They were wearing head-scarves. I prayed then that God would break my angry and self-justified heart.
Yesterday, on a side-street, examining the sliced tire of an innocent young woman, He proved himself faithful.
(You can find Joel on Twitter at @HyltonJoel)