One Sunday last summer, my wife and I pulled out of the church parking lot, and there was an elderly woman walking down the street in her Sunday best. It was 12:15 in the middle of a sweltering August day, and I felt sorry for her.
“Honey, let’s offer her a ride,” I said.
After we pulled over and offered the lady a ride, we discovered that she only spoke Spanish, but fortunately, we’re both Spanish-speakers. We also gathered that she was going to a church service, and that it was somewhere down the street.
I asked her the name of her church, wanting to look it up on the GPS, and she replied, “La iglesia de los Santos de los últimos días,” she said.
“Oh,” I said, looking over at my wife, “she’s Mormon.”
I don’t mean to offend my Mormon friends at all, but I have serious qualms with the highly-questionable teachings of Joseph Smith, so I quietly began to regret giving the old lady a ride. But after I looked up the location of the closest Mormon church, I realized she was about a mile away from it. It wasn’t like I was going to tell her to take a hike, so I just sat there and let my mind drift back to another old lady I met back when I was an uptight, super-religious, college student.
I was outside a nursing home, where my church group was singing and visiting the patients. I noticed this elderly lady trying to light her cigarette, but her hand was shaking so hard, she couldn’t get the lighter and cigarette to coordinate. Part of me wanted to just light the cigarette for her, but another part of me was afraid I would be enabling her depravity if I did it. Despite my religiousness, I couldn’t bear to watch her struggle so pitifully, so I offered to light it for her.
When we reached the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we said adios to the elderly woman and invited her to visit our church (we got a polite no gracias on that invitation). When I realized I was still uneasy about giving her a ride, it hit me: I can be just as religious today as I ever was in college. God had given us an opportunity to spare an old lady a mile of walking – and I needed to be thankful for it, not pouting about it.
Even if that old lady never comes to our church – and even if that other old lady stayed addicted to nicotine until the day she died – I did what I could to love them. And I think that’s all Jesus is asking of us sometimes.