It was December 24, 1960 when my Dad and I started on the trip from Charles Town, W.Va. to Charleston, W.Va. The purpose was to make a Christmas visit with Dad’s parents, whom he had not seen for a long time. I was eight years-old at the time. They had never seen me.
As we traveled, Dad had been pretty good about identifying the different roads we had to take. At the time we had just turned onto Route 39 at Mill Point, and was starting to ascend the Cranberry Glades Mountain. When we got to the top, it started to snow very heavily. But, descending the other side, Dad lost control of the car, and we had a very bad wreck when we slid through the railing and down a steep slope.
Both of us were hurt badly. The roof had collapsed in on Dad, and he was trapped. He told me I needed to go for help. I had a broken arm, and was bleeding, I could tell. But, I was able to crawl out from the wreck, and back up to the road. At the time, I was not aware the area we were in was the Cranberry Glades Wilderness. Very few people lived in that particular area.
It seemed I walked forever through the falling snow. But, the home lights I finally saw were the most welcoming sight. I remember being so weak as I climbed up onto the porch. I fell against the door as I blacked out.
When I woke up, I was in a doctor’s office in Richwood. At the time, it had snowed too much to get me to a hospital. Days later, when Mom came to get me, she told me the following story.
The family of the house was preparing to have a Christmas Eve family dinner. One of the children was blind. She had been sitting patiently in the front room as meal preparations were being made when I fell at the door.
At the table devotions, her Father had reminded the family how important it was that during the Christmas season to be alert to people who have need. It is easy to forget the needs of others when things are going so good amid the gifts and good foods.
After a few moments, the girl said, “Daddy, I think I was alerted a few moments ago to someone who has a need. I think someone fell against the front door. I think they are lying on the porch.”
They brought me into the house, and treated me as best they could. A shard of glass had cut through my side. They stabilized my broken arm. Part of the family took me into Richwood to a doctor. The others, knowing that there had been an evident wreck somewhere, went looking for it. With flashlights, they followed the blood trail I had left. After several hours of searching, they found Dad, but it was too late for him, I was told later on.
Obviously, the memory of what happened to Dad has remained with me. But, also, the words “be alert to people who have need” long stood out in my mind. As I continued to grow up in church, I began to see more and more the truth of God in that statement. God had been alert to Earth’s people who had need, and, He ministered to that need through the Virgin Birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.
But, in due course, I came to realize it was also my responsibility to be alert to people who have need, too. I should not be blind to it. That is why every year on Christmas Eves my team and I drive through town looking for people who have need, and minister to their need. Sometimes it is with food. Sometimes it is with clothing. Sometimes it is just with our presence and company. As we have it so good ourselves, it is important to not forget others who do not have it so good. It might be for one person or a family. It may be more. But, always be alert.
As the Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.