Each night at dusk he headed home, deaf to traffic sounds.
Reeling into roadside ditch, he lay upon the ground in bleak half-conscious stupor.
With effort, he crawled laboriously to the ditch’s edge, then worked at walking once again. The man continued through his nightly ritual.
A friend approached the sodden hulk; bending down, he knelt beside the fallen man. With steady arms, the friend began THE RESCUE.
The friend was not a hero. I was a bystander. Though years have passed, the vivid scene remains.
Whose life was changed? Whose journey reached a crossroad? Whose path was interrupted by a chance encounter? Was it the man? Was it the friend? Was it me?
What are you thinking now?
Night fell. Darkness hid the two from sight.
THE RESCUE had begun.
* * * * * * * *
Many years have passed since this incident took place.
My husband and I were standing at our living room window, watching a man walking down the distant road. The man lived nearby in a broken down house. Each day he walked two miles to a neighborhood bar where he spent his time.
We didn’t usually see him traveling on the way to his daily destination. Nor did we see him when he was going home. But this day, we saw him walking home. As we watched, he staggered and stumbled, falling into the deep ditch beside the road.
For moments he was out of our sight. Then, we saw him crawling out of the ditch and struggling to his feet. Walking a few steps, he fell once more. Once more, he crawled up the side of the ditch on his hands and knees and attempted to stand.
I became aware my husband had left my side. Now, in his truck, he was driving down our driveway toward the distant road. I saw him stop at the place where the man was lying beside the ditch. Getting out of his truck, he approached the figure.
Taking him by the arm, he helped the man to his feet.
My husband later told me he intended to help the man into the cab of the truck, but he protested. “I’m not clean enough to sit in your truck. Help me into the back. I’ll ride home there.”
As this scene unfolded before my eyes, I was surely not aware it would be in my memory and my heart many years later.
How many of us, including me, would leave the comfort of our own home to help a drunken, smelly man get safely to his home?
This was a view of my husband about which I wasn’t aware. Yes, he was kind, gentle and caring. The scene I watched was more than that.
The experience changed me. Maybe it has changed you.
At this stage of life it has become clear to me, we all need to be rescued.
Our Friend is on His way.
In later years, as we discussed the incident, facts revealed themselves about the man who was rescued.
He was a veteran from World War 2.
As years have passed, we’ve become aware of the experiences our soldiers endured during that time of war.
They were too horrible to remember.
We now call it PTSD.
It has been found, for some of the veterans, it is easier to drink away the memories than to relive them in their minds.
In our village, there were three World War 2 veterans who spent their days at the same local bar. The world called them drunks. Should we call them heroes?