“As the ice and snow of unpredictable winter storms descended on our towns and streets, we were buried under reports of our families, neighbors and strangers stranded across the street,” said the Rev. Arthur Harrison, associate pastor at Pell City First United Methodist Church. “Families spent the night in freezing temperatures as their cars ran out of gas on the interstates. Local hotels swelled with travelers seeking rooms and warmth.”
Harrison said accidents and abandoned vehicles caused streets to look more like scenes from “The Walking Dead” than our communities and neighborhoods.
“One day long ago, far from the snow and ice storms of Alabama, a lawyer asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” he said. “I can almost imagine the pause and the anticipation that hung in the air as Jesus thought for a moment and them began to reply, ‘A man went down from Jericho to Jerusalem…’”
Harrison said the story continued to unfold as the man was beaten, abandoned and stranded by the side of the road.
“Many people passed him by, some church folk, some town folk, always concerned with their own problems or their own safety as they traveled the same road as the stranded man,” he said. “Finally, someone else came along. A man from out of town saw the man, stopped, and was ‘moved by compassion’ to help the man, care for his hurts and his bruises and rescue him from the side of the road. The story ends with a warm bed, a full belly, and happy ending, but Jesus takes it a step further when he tells those listening to go and do likewise.”
Harrison said as troubling and anxious reports piled in a couple weeks ago, they began to hear reports of modern good Samaritans and “snow angels,” as many are calling them, people who despite their own comfort and safety went out of their way to help the injured, abandoned and stranded.
“One particular member of our congregation was stranded in Moody in a local hotel,” he said. “She managed to make it to the hotel from the interstate, but there weren’t any rooms available, and there was very little room in the lobby for sleeping or resting for an overnight stay. She retells the story of seeing several patrons of the hotel opening up their rooms and giving up their reservations to stranded motorists and travelers. As the night passed, many of those same individuals with four-wheel drive vehicles began offering to drive stranded workers and motorists home or to local towns where the roads were opened and family members could pick them up.”
Harrison said another member got caught suddenly between the hills on U.S.231 between Ashville and Pell City.
“As the snow on the roads began to pack and refreeze into ice sheets, the vehicles at the bottom of the hills could not make it to the top and the vehicles at the top couldn’t make it safely to the bottom,” he said. “Many drivers, including my friend, were not dressed for the cold weather and worried about spending the night in their car. Suddenly, several local gentlemen arrived with chains, trucks and cables and began safely pulling and pushing cars through the treacherous conditions. Though his trip took nine hours longer than usual, my friend was able to spend the night and following days safe and warm with his family due to some neighborly love and mercy.”
Harrison said finally, as he walked down U.S. 231 to blanket his horse at Shel Clair Farms, he noticed a very large accident blocking the curve near Mt. Zion Road.
“As traffic in both directions began piling up, several local residents began steering and escorting vehicles through the jumble of trucks and cars,” he said. “Some motorists turned around and returned later with gravel, litter and salt to help those vehicles already stuck in the ice and unable to get traction. The unpredictable sliding of vehicles made the situation very dangerous, but these neighbors carefully and safely escorted many drivers and families to safety on their anxious trips home.
“What I saw a couple weeks ago, and what I know will be shown again if another snow and ice crisis occurs crosses any lines of belief, denomination and creed. The enduring love and care for our neighbors and strangers in desperate situations is a mark of our southern hospitality and community pride. For our own local ‘snow angels’ and good Samaritans, there was no agenda, profit or motive. They were simply moved by compassion and couldn’t pass by a neighbor in need of help. They were the beacons of joy, good news and hope that we come to look for during a crisis and emergency. I hope more of us can go and do likewise in the future.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.