Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

How many times have you seen people standing on the side of the road with a broken down car? Countless times, I'm sure. If you're like me, you feel sorry for them, but continue on your way while hoping for the best.

When I was younger (and childless), I stopped a couple of times to see if I could help. But now that I usually have small children in my car, I am quite wary of stopping and asking if they need help. Sad, but it is what it is.

Friday, I was one of those people. My car was making a funny noise and I had it checked out by the body shop who fixed it after our wreck, thinking that perhaps they missed something. It was diagnosed with having an ailing power steering pump (not caused by the accident) and was told I could wait a few days before having it fixed. I then drove to the tire store to have a flat fixed and was told that I needed four new tires, but the next available appointment was in an hour and a half. So I decided to kill some time at Target (where else?) and on the way there, my car died.

It died, people. The radio cut in and out, the transmission failed and then it just stopped. It stopped in a sunny spot while I was mid-turn on to a busy street. And I had Liam in the car. Poor Liam with the same cough, cold, congestion and pink eye that his sister gave him earlier that week.

So of course I panicked. Ryan left work immediately to help me out, but I knew it would take him at least 45 minutes to get to me since he rides the bus to work. I called our roadside assistance program and they told me it could be up to an hour before the tow truck could reach me. So what did I do? I got hysterical and told the woman that not only was my car sticking out into traffic, but the car was in the sun and I had an infant in the car. And of course I was crying because that's what I do in a crisis situation.....I cry.

Several people stopped and asked if I needed help while I was standing outside the car waving the traffic around my stalled car. I bravely smiled through the tears and politely repeated, "Thank you, but the tow truck is on it's way." Most said "OK" and drove on.

However, one lady said, "I don't believe you", and pulled up behind me and turned her hazards on since mine weren't working. She handed me a tissue and played with Liam (who thankfully was drinking cold water from his sippy cup) while I talked to the roadside assistance crew.

Two gentleman stopped in front of my stalled car and offered to push it out of the intersection. They pushed it into the shade and then insisted that I wait with Liam in the air-conditioned hospital 50 yards away while waiting for the tow truck. The lady who played with Liam waited with my car until she saw the tow truck arrive about 15 minutes later. All of them left before I could say "thank you" one last time.

So what did I learn from this? I learned 1)I'm useless in a crisis since all I do is cry and 2)there really are good Samaritans out there. I don't know if they helped me because I had a baby or because I was upset, but either way, I'm grateful.

So here's a "shout-out" to Betty, Lance and Lance's friend who helped me. They'll never read this, but I'd like to think they know how thankful I am for what they did. I hope that karma pays them back tenfold for their kindness.

In honor of Betty, Lance and Lance's friend, I want to hear about your "Good Samaritan" moments. Have you ever stopped and helped a stranger? Have you been the recipient of help from a stranger? I want to hear about it.

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