Like a Cup of Cold Water

Rush Hour. Laguna Hills, California. November, 2011. 

Simple Deeds

Stopped at a red light controlling a busy intersection, I watched in my rear-view mirror as cars came to rest behind me. It was quitting time on Friday, a brisk hour for traffic.

Surveying the scene, I noticed three young men pushing a van that had broken down in a lane that feeds a freeway onramp. One of them had turned around, leaning into the heavy vehicle with his back; the other two bent forward at a precarious angle. They struggled against a rise in the road. I could practically feel their muscles straining to get the van up the hill and through the intersection.

As I watched, the van slowed to a near-stop. Fear gripped me. If the van came to a complete stop, its next movement would be to roll backwards down the hill, over the men laboring to push it. The driver’s seat was empty–no one sat behind the wheel to apply the emergency brake and prevent a catastrophe. I held my breath and whispered a prayer.

A black pickup truck sat behind the van. The passenger door flew open and a man in a blue t-shirt ran to the van, claiming a spot among the three men. With his efforts added to their own, they gained some forward momentum.

Now they were pushing the van into the intersection, another risky maneuver. What if some motorist, preoccupied with thoughts of his dinner or the weekend stretching before him or happy hour, watching only the signal and not the traffic in the intersection, plowed into them? I watched anxiously as traffic began to edge around them.

A discount gas station occupied the corner across the intersection from the disabled vehicle. I could see lines of cars waiting for their turns at the pump. Two men came running from the station into the intersection, their neckties flapping as they ran, adding their strength to the team’s effort.

With six men pushing, they safely cleared the intersection. One man jogged forward and hopped into the driver’s seat of the van. As he steered the van into the gas station’s parking lot, I wanted to cheer.

As I continued towards home, towards my husband, towards rest, the gloomy fall day seemed a bit brighter.

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. 

Hebrews 6:9-10 (NIV)


  1. I love this soooo much, Sheila. I am so glad you wrote this down. Really, you don’t know how much it blessed me.

    There’s so much we don’t see; you know? And it’s possible you prayed the extra three men into place. It’s possible you prayed the other motorists’ eyes into focus. It’s also possible you prayed down angels, that they were interwoven among the cars and leaning, themselves, against the broken vehicle.

    I believe so deeply in the power of prayer…of remaining in a constant state of it, trusting God to hear and move.

    Love you.

  2. Lovely post today! Your story shows that people are still good and willing to help a person in need.

    My mother used to say, “Many hands make lite work.” I was also reminded that when two or three agree in prayer that it shall be done for them.

  3. You know, Brandee….I thought I believed in the power of prayer. But I must say it never occured to me that I might have prayed down angels.

    Thanks for making me think!

  4. Hazel,

    Yes, I think most people are good. Broken, but good. It’s the the good folk have lousy PR.

  5. Your story brings big smiles. I agree with Brandee — God was using your prayers as part of the whole situation. Beautiful.


    P.S. Your story reminds me of trying to push a stalled Toyota LandCruiser backwards up a hill on a narrow dirt track in the Taita Hills in Kenya. I, too, wondered if I’d get run over if it decided to roll back toward me, but by God’s grace some people materialized out of the forest to help.

  6. Isn’t it something, Linda, how often help arrives just at the moment when it seems all might be lost?

    I’m wondering how long a list we could make of those occasions in our lives.