aka The Northwoods Good Samaritan of 2001. This is a story near and dear to my heart that I like to share most every December.
Back in the December of 2001 on the roads of ice and snow near Hayward Wisconsin a young mom with her preschool children loaded in the family car was heading home to the nearby town of Drummond when along the road she spots an older man with the hood up on his car.
This was a typical bitter cold December day, but though she has her young children with her she is impressed to stop and see if she can help.
As she pulls over the old man approaches her car. She cautiously locks her doors and rolls down her window slightly to ask if she can help. The old man does not speak, tries to open the door, then reaches inside his coat.. making her all the more uneasy.
The old man pulls out a small keyboard from his jacket and plays a pretyped short message explaining he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) so he can not speak. He then types needs a ride into town. The young woman opens her car to the old man she does not know and drives him home.
This old man was my father Walter Larson, and the young woman was Jen Herricks, and Jen was the the Good Samaritan of Northern Wisconsin 2001. I wonder how many cars drove by before Jen stopped to help. How many macho northwoods guys in their 4x4 trucks drove by too busy to help an old man stranded on a bitter cold winter day? Maybe none, but maybe too many. But no matter, my dad was cared for by someone with a family car, and a kind heart.
Jen later explained to my mom that she thought my dad was an angel. There are a few explanations for this observation but no one before this had described my dad as an angel. A good guy for sure, but an angel? .. hmmm. No so much.
Maybe there was an angel standing alongside my dad that cold December day, or the the peace dad demonstrated just months before passing on to Heaven. Either way today this was certainly a divine appointment with an angel named Jen.
I love the gospel passage Mt 25:35-40ish “You fed me when I was hungry, you clothed me when I was naked.” Well if the gospels were written today they would also say “you gave me a ride when I was an old man when my car broke down on a winter road in Wisconsin. For when you do these things for the least of my people, you do it for me.”
So Jen gives my dad a ride home. He offers her money, she refuses, and they go their separate ways. NICE STORY, BUT IT IS NOT OVER!.
A few weeks later my folks receive a Christmas card from Jen wishing and praying the best for them. This was nice touch too, but... THE STORY IS NOT OVER!
My dad passed away from his battle with ALS just a couple short months after their December encounter. The funeral was a celebration of the good man my dad was, and his reward in Heaven. 'Irony' or providence has it Jen and her family began attending my mom & dad's church in Cable Wisconsin still not realizing the connection.
After a short period of time it became clear to Jen that my mom attends this same church.. and so Jen contacts my mom. This began a friendship that continued until my mom passed away in December 2016.. 15 YEARS later. This friendship continued after Jen's family moving 70 miles away, and my mom later moved 150 miles to the Twin Cities. I mean, c'mon this took this good Samaritan thing too far.. they must have actually become close friends. Correction they were the best of friends.
When Jen came to visit my mom it is with hugs and kisses that are reserved normally for family. Her kids called her Grandma Nell, and many of the trips included sleep overs in my mom's little apartment This friendship God has provided Jen those 15 years my mom as a ‘seasoned’ Christian woman to talk and confide in.
My mom as I mentioned passed away in December 2016, but you can not take away the blessing of that God orchestrated ride 15 years ago for my dad, or the wonderful friendship over the next 15 for my mom and for Jen. God is good even through the tough times.
Thank you Jen.
So as Christmas approaches, please take time to slow down and notice the angel appointments in your life.
Though the amount of food I consume on Thanksgiving is impressive it cannot be not classified as a miracle. But after the meal, after watching football and fitting in a Thanksgiving Day tryptophan induced nap, I return to the kitchen to find LEFTOVERS! So many leftovers! How can there be so much food in my kitchen considering all my family consumed just a few hours before? So many leftovers that I ponder could Jesus have fed the 5,000 with one turkey and a few side dishes instead of the bread and fish menu recorded in the gospels?
It's a miracle! Ok.. maybe not a miracle but it is a really really good illusion leaving my mind and stomach full through the middle of December.
A more serious assessment on miracles is.. God answers prayer. He may part the Red Sea and other times it is the subtle tweak of circumstances, but I believe God answers all prayers with the heart of a loving Father. These are the true miracles found every day of the year... and do not include my Turkey leftovers.
God's loving interaction with his children altering our attitudes, and possibly the outcome of very real circumstances are just as much of a miracle as a parting Red Sea, or Creation itself. His supernatural intervention is personal and never arbitrary.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams and full of His subtle and big miracles. I pray your Thanksgiving Day is blessed with faith, family, friends, and .. LEFTOVERS.
Jeff (always stuffed in the Back Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson