Aka, The Northwoods Good Samaritan. This story is near and dear to my heart, and I make a point to share it almost every December. THIS WAS NOW 22 YEARS AGO!
Back in 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 she spotted an older man with the hood up on his car along the side of the road.
This was a typical bitter cold December day, but though she had her young children with her, she was impressed enough to stop and see if she could help.
As she pulled over, the old man approached her car. She cautiously locks her doors and rolls down her window slightly to ask for help. The old man does not speak, tries to open the door, then reaches inside his coat, making her uneasy.
The old man pulls out a small keyboard from his jacket and plays a pre-typed short message explaining that he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), so he cannot speak. He then types that he 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 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 went by too busy to help an old man stranded on a bitterly cold winter day? Maybe none, but perhaps many, but no matter, my dad was cared for by someone with a warm car and a kind heart.
Jen later explained to my mom that she thought my dad was an angel. There are a few explanations, but my dad… an angel. A good guy for sure, but an angel?
Maybe an angel was standing alongside my dad that cold December day, or perhaps it was the peace Dad demonstrated just months before passing on to Heaven. Either way, today was 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.” 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. 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'S NOT OVER!
A few weeks later, my folks received a Christmas card from Jen, wishing and praying the best for them. This was a nice touch, too, BUT again...
THIS STORY IS NOT OVER!
Just a couple short months later, my dad passed away from his battle with ALS. 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 and dad's church in Cable, Wisconsin, still not realizing the connection. After a short time, it became clear to Jen that my mom attends this same church, so Jen contacted my mom, and they reunited often as they became friends... great friends.
When Jen came to visit Mom, it was with hugs and kisses reserved generally for family, and her kids called her Grandma Nell. This friendship that God provided Jen with my mom as a ‘seasoned’ Christian woman to talk to and my mom's companionship of this young woman with a growing passion for God.
Even after Jen's family moved 70 miles away, their friendship continued. Then, a few years later, my mom moved 150 miles to Minnesota, where my family could better care for her, but their friendship did not miss a best. Jen would plan weekend visits, bringing a number of her kids along to sleepovers, and their visits included board games where everyone was involved.
My mom passed away in December 2016, but you cannot take away the blessing of their friendship when my dad's car broke down 15 years earlier
Today, Jen and her husband Todd serve the Lord in Uganda with their ministry.
'Woven2gether'' serves expecting mothers, valuing the born and preborn and growing strong families while sharing the Gospel. In December 2022, Jen and Todd adopted Caleb Kica HERRICKS while serving in Uganda!
Thank you, Jen and Todd. May God bless and use you both in ways beyond your dreams.
And I am sure as I end this blog... THIS STORY IS NOT OVER
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson