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An Extra 20 Minutes – by Rodger Dinwiddie, Executive Director


On the way to work a few weeks ago my early morning drive was interrupted. The sun had barely risen; enough darkness remained as I started down a slight incline on Charlotte Pike. My eyes caught the attention of a man standing on the side of the road who appeared disoriented. My focus was only on the man, nothing else.

As I continued toward him, I could tell he was in trouble. From a distance he looked rough, and was bleeding.  No other vehicles were between us. I didn’t see an automobile accident or anything similar. All I saw was a bleeding, disoriented man. I wasn’t prepared for the thoughts and feelings that raced through my mind and heart … “Oh crap, is this a homeless man who needs help?” It would not have been an uncommon site driving in to see homeless men and woman along Charlotte. My thoughts and feelings troubled me … because I knew that there was no one else between me and this bleeding man. I am grateful that on this morning the God of the Universe revealed Himself to me in a loud, clear voice, “STOP YOUR CAR AND HELP!”  So, I did! 

As I slowed, for the first time I saw the bicycle, helmet and backpack on the ground. Relief settled in. Rather than stop in the middle of Charlotte, I turned into the first available parking lot and began walking back toward the fallen bicyclist. He didn’t know that I had stopped and had proceeded to wave down another car for help. Another older vehicle making an awful sound stopped … driven by a young African American man, with dreads and shorts that sagged, had stopped. Together we helped this stranger begin to clean himself as he continued to bleed from his face, arms, and legs. I took his bike and the other stranger took the bleeding bicyclist to the nearest hospital emergency room, only a few blocks away. With the bicyclist settled at the hospital (FYI … we spoke later in the morning and despite some stitches, bangs and bruises he is just fine) the two of us returned to the parking lot … me to head to work and the other young man to do something that would prompt me to write about the events of the morning. You see, I may have been able to excuse my earlier feelings with all kinds of rationalizations, and minimizations. I’m great at excusing myself sometimes … especially when I am afraid to act, or get involved in messy situations. But I couldn’t escape this morning. The young man who had transported the bleeding bike rider had asked the Hospital Security Guard for cleaning solution for the inside of his car. Blood spills covered the passenger seat, arm, and door rests. I commented, “Man, he bled all over your car. That’s a lot of blood.” He stuck his head out the door, cracked a very interesting smile and said, “It’s likely I’m going to get stopped, and when I do, I sure can’t have police looking at all the blood all over my car … I’m done and on the way “downtown” no matter what I say.”  His words caught me off guard… not what I was thinking … sure I get it … need to get the blood out of the car … but not because I’m worried about getting stopped and then questioned by police.  My response would have been, “You see Officer, this morning I was on the way to work and I saw this man … and I stopped to help … and  I took him to the hospital, etc., etc.” I have not been able to get this young man’s words out of mind … and I cannot erase the starkly different perspectives that the two of us had about the blood on the seat, and his fears of getting pulled over by the police.

What a tragedy that because he drove a car that looked rough, with a drive out tag, and he is black, young, male, and has dreads that he should worry … sure I would want the blood out of my car also, but I would not have made it the first order of business in the hospital parking lot. What a tragedy that his motivation to clean his car was based on such fear and pressure.  There is something tragically wrong with culture that this young man, who had just acted in the Samaritan’s role, would be left with thoughts that he was at risk simply for appearing as he did. 

And, what  a tragedy that I had  felt some 20 minutes earlier, anxiety about stopping to help someone who I thought at first to be a “homeless stranger.” For gosh sakes, I work at a building with a drop in center for young men and women who are on the streets for all kinds of reasons, and with 10 other young people who live there 24/7 who have been homeless and are in transition.

Bottom line to me … I/we have a long way to go in terms of addressing the inherit stereotypes and biases that exist in culture.   There is much work to be done in my heart. I suspect there is much to be done in all our hearts, no matter the level of our enlightenment. As I continue to attempt to unwrap the events of these 20 minutes I am thankful that at least where I work each day, where I worship the God of my understanding, and where I live each day, there are others that journey with me in this quest to be a people of compassion, and to be those who take risks to serve others, even when tentative, and even when danger may be present. What a gift to be able to also share out loud these secret thoughts in a safe place where others struggle with similar experiences and where we seek solutions to overcome the many biases of our hearts that keep us separated and blind us from our need for each other.

In our workplace at the Youth Opportunity Center, and in our work at STARS, we seek to foster a culture of understanding, acceptance, and service. If you find that you wish to join us in this effort please contact us at 615-279-0058. There is a place for you and who knows what 20 minutes might do?

As I approved more closely I saw for the first time the bike that lie beside this bleeding man … his helmet and backpack on the ground and the image of this bleeding much disoriented man needing help.