When I Didn’t Help

The Girl in the Hoodie

I hurried out of my car to fill up the tank. I had been driving with my gas light on since early morning and I knew I was merely running on fumes, but I had to be quick because rush hour traffic was starting. I knew every minute I spent idle, traffic would only get worse.

As I was tapping my foot waiting for my tank to fill, she walked up.

She was probably my age, dressed in sweatpants, a thin hoodie, and her hair in a messy bun. She said, “Excuse me, sir, but do you have a couple bucks I could have to…” her voice trailed off.

I told her I didn’t have any cash and was apologetic about it.W

“Well, my friends didn’t pay the bill for the hotel room, so I got kicked out. Any chance you’re headed anywhere near Cheshire Bridge? I know a place I can stay down there.”

My tank finished filling and I hurriedly replied, “Sorry, I’m going the opposite direction. Good luck!”

And I hopped in my car and drove off… toward Cheshire Bridge.

The Girl in the Wheelchair

I had my headphones in, listening to a sermon, and Finn on the leash. It was a nice afternoon out so I thought I would take him for a walk through the neighborhood.

Throughout the nights before I was having wild dreams while I slept. I dreamed of signs, wonders, and miracles of healing. Each day I woke up I thought to myself: Man, next time I see someone who needs a miracle, I’m going to pray for them! God must be up to something.

So as Finn and I walked down the street back toward the house, I saw her: a young girl in the parking lot of the Section-8 housing, struggling to push herself in her wheelchair. She was trying to make her way over a curb when suddenly she fell over.

Finn and I ran over to her and the entire time I was thinking: Help her up, pray for healing! Help her up, pray for healing! There are no wheelchairs in Heaven.

As I neared, her friend emerged from their apartment, pulled her up, grabbed her wheelchair, and she hobbled inside. I asked, “Hey, are you okay?”

“Were you coming to help me out?” she asked. I said I was.

“Aw, thanks.”

And instead of saying, “Hey, I know this might be weird, but can I pray for you?” I said, “No problem,” and walked away.

Yet the nudge in my heart continued to burn.

The reason I didn’t help them

You’re probably thinking one of two things:

  1. We can’t help everybody, Matt; or
  2. You’re a pretty lousy Christian

You’re probably right on both accounts. The reason I didn’t help the girl in the hoodie was because I couldn’t get my head out of my own ass.

The reason I didn’t help the girl in the wheelchair was because, honestly, I was afraid.

I was afraid she would say no to prayer. I was afraid I would pray and she wouldn’t be healed. I was afraid that God would fail and I would have to take the heat for it.

I suppose, on both accounts, I simply couldn’t get myself out of the way to give room for God to move.

Why I wrote this today

I felt like sharing these two stories because I wanted you to know that I’m sometimes a minister who doesn’t minister. I’m a seminarian who might know theological things, but that I don’t always give those things legs. I call myself a Christian, but I sometimes do nothing to identify with that name.

I shared these stories because I know you do the same thing and I wanted you to know that you’re in good company.

But I also wrote these stories so that I’ll never live them again.

It’s easy to remember and share the moments we do good, but it’s more difficult to remember and share the moments we miss opportunities to be Jesus with skin on.

We’re saturated in grace so that we might saturate others in grace.

Let’s not miss more opportunities today.

About Matthew Snyder

Matt is a thirty-something writer and young adult minister. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Merridith, and their dog, Finn.


  1. We’re not soldiers… nor or we under orders. We should respond because we recognize the light—or the source of the light—in everyone we encounter. This is not an “X”ian responsibility. This is a demonstration of gratefulness because we exist.

    Good stuff Matthew!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *