Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stranded

There she sat, stranded along the side of the road. It was getting late and although she was on a relatively well travelled stretch of rural highway, she felt completely alone. One by one the cars whizzed past, seemingly oblivious to the flashing hazard lights on her car.

“Of all the nights to forget my cell phone, this had to be the one.”
She thought.

To herself she said, “It’s only been a half an hour Carolyn, give it a little more time. Someone will stop before much longer.” Somehow saying this out loud seemed to give her some reassurance that it would really happen, but after another fifteen minutes ticked by without so much as a glance in her direction, she was beginning to doubt her own voice.

She considered walking to a place where she could get some help, but the service station up the road was about three miles away and the only thing behind her was even farther than that.

“Twenty years ago,” she thought, “I could have walked that there and back.”

However at the age of seventy-three and the sting of arthritis plaguing her joints, she knew that hoofing it was not in her best interest, if not completely out of the question.

“Damn it Harold!” she exclaimed, “Why aren’t you here to help me? I really need you right now honey.”

It had been nearly a year and a half since her husband of fifty-one years had passed away and this incident was just another painful reminder of how much she missed him.

“It’s funny,” she thought, “when you were around, you used to drive me crazy telling me how to do absolutely everything. Right now though dear, I’d give anything to have you here to tell me what to do next.” Reaching into her purse, she grabbed a tissue and wiped the tears that had begun to flow from her eyes.

The only good news to this situation, if there was such a thing, was that no one would be sitting at home worried about her being so late. She realized however, that also meant no one would be around to call for her if she stayed there.

Sitting in the near darkness with only the faint glimpse of a distant streetlight she started taking a mental inventory of the trunk of her car.

“Let’s see, I remember him showing me where the spare was, and I’m sure there’s a jack in there too. Hmmm, what about one of those things to turn the gizmos that hold on the tire. What are those called again? Are those the nuts or they the bolts? I can never keep those two straight. Well either way that wrenchy thingy must be in there too.”

A little more than an hour had gone by since limping the car to the side of the road and her hopes of getting help were starting fade. Convincing herself that all the components for the task at hand were probably available, she decided to give it a go. Popping open the trunk, she tried to recall anything she’d ever learned about changing a tire.

“How hard could it really be anyway? I’m sure I can do it.” She told herself.

After shifting various objects to one side, she lifted up the carpet that lined the trunk to reveal the doughnut sized spare tire that was held fast by a large metal wing nut. Underneath it she could see what appeared to be a small jack.

“How on earth is that tiny little thing going to lift up this whole great big car.” She thought.

“First things first,” she continued, “now how am I supposed to get this darn thing out of here?”

She started to fiddle with the wing nut trying to loosen its grip, but it was of no use. It was fused to the bolt and no matter how much she struggled to free it; she simply didn’t have the strength in her frail hands to release its hold.

As eager as she had been to try and tackle this dilemma, she was now aware that there was no way she would be able to do this on her own. To compound her feeling of despair a light rain was now starting to fall.

She hated this feeling of weakness and yearned for the strength and independence of her youth. Once again her emotions started to get the best of her and she began to tear up.

“God, please send an angel to help me.” She cried out.

It was no sooner than those words left her lips when she saw headlights approaching.

Again she prayed, “Lord let this be my angel.”

Like a sign from above the vehicle veered over to the shoulder and slowed as it drew near. Looking up with her fist clenched, she hollered, “Thank You!”

As the old beat up pick-up came to a stop a few yards behind her car, she raised her arm to shield the glare of the bright lights, while waving with her free hand in a gesture of thanks.

Her happiness and relief however, were immediately replaced by fear when the two occupants opened the doors and climbed out. Her so called angels were two rough looking, thirty something year old guys with grubby blue jeans and long stringy hair. They had a look about them that suggested there was trouble in the air.

She felt her body tense up as they walked closer and she feared for what might happen next. Starting to back towards the safety of her driver’s door she felt her left ankle twist slightly as her foot caught a small hole in the pavement. This caused her to stumble a bit, but fortunately she was able to right herself before falling. With this the two men raced toward her and she closed her eyes waiting for the inevitable to happen.

“Ma’am, you ok?” she heard, opening her eyes again.

“Startled and frightened she managed to stutter, “Ye...yes, I…I think I’m alright.”

“Ma’am, we don’t mean ya no harm, we jus saw yer lights a flashin’ an thought yous in need of some help.” One of the men said. “You got some kind a trouble with yer car?”

With a sigh she said. “Please forgive me, I’ve been out here for a while and I’m just a bit jumpy.”

the second mand spoke up, “Awe, tain’t nothin’, I know we ain’t much to look at, but we really are decent guys. So what’s the matter with yer car?”

“I’ve got a flat tire and I can’t seem to get the spare out of the trunk. I’d be happy to pay you for changing the tire if you are interested.” She said.

“Shoot darlin’ we’d be happy to fix that for ya, but you sure don’t hafta pay us nothin’ fer it.” As the driver continued he said, “This here’s my brother Jimmy and folks call me TJ.”

The three of them shared handshakes and pleasantries then TJ said, “It’ll take us bout ten minutes or so and we’ll have ya fixed up a ready to go. Ifin ya like you can sit in yer car and wait or if ya prefer you can wait in our truck. It ain’t real pretty but the heaters a runnin’ an it’s nice and warm inside.”

“If it’s just the same to you, I think I’ll wait in the car. I don’t know if I could climb into your truck. It looks kind of tall.” She said.

“Suit yerself ma’am.” He replied.

She got back into her car and sunk into the seat, as the two men got busy changing the tire for her. Sitting there she tried to rationalize her earlier reaction to the men, blaming it on all the news stories she’d heard of about women alone being taken advantage of by non scrupulous individuals.

No matter how hard she tried to explain it away to herself, she realized she was just stereotyping them. She took one look at them and determined without any cause that these two unkempt young men were out to do her harm.

“Shame on you Carolyn!” She mumbled. “How dare you pass judgement on them.”

Continuing her self lecture she thought, “You asked for an angel and you got not only one, but two of them. Sure they didn’t show up in pearly white robes with wings on their backs, but angels none the less, are exactly what they are. Let this be a lesson to you. You may be seventy some years old, but you still have some things to learn.”

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK” Jimmy tapped on the window.

“Ma’am, yer good ta go.” He said.

She got back out of the car and with a twenty-dollar bill in each hand said, “Now please boys, let me pay you something for your trouble.”

In unison they both put their hands up and TJ said, “No ma’am, we thank you kindly, but we can’t charge you nothin’ for helping out a neighbor.”

Jimmy continued on, “Ya see, our mamma done died two July’s ago and we made a friend of hers a promise that we’d help out folks when we could on account a what he done for us.”

“ Did you say July?”

“Yes ma’am, July 20th a year and a half ago.” Said TJ.

She replied, “Oh my goodness, that’s the same exact day my late husband Harold passed away.” Her knees trembled a bit as she felt a cold shiver run through her body.

Composing herself she asked, “Tell me about this promise you made?”

TJ told her about how their mother had suffered through a long bout with cancer and had accumulated a tremendous amount of bills with all of the various medical procedures. He went on to explain that their family was dirt poor and had no way of paying for even a fraction of her bills and if it hadn’t have been for a friend of the family who had graciously offered to pay all of her expenses her time on this earth would have been even shorter and with a lot more pain.

“We offered to pay him back any way we could.” Jimmy said, “but he wouldn’t hear nothing’ bout it. He just told us someone done helped him when he needed it most and all we was to do was to pay it forward in kindness whenever we could. I still don’t know zactly what that means, but I guess it stands for we should help out our neighbors whenever we can.”

Carolyn stood there dumbfounded. Hear were two men, who from the their attire, speech and mannerisms, had grown up in decidedly different social circles than she had, but right now were teaching her a very valuable lesson about life.

“The world needs more people like you boys, thank you.” She said.

“No need to thank us ma’am, I guess now yer just gonna hafta help out someone when you can next.”

19 comments:

Jules~ said...

Very nice Jeff. I love this story. It is such a wonderful illustration on the idea of compassion and looking beyond the ends of our noses. There is such a thrill and satisfaction in helping someone in need with no thought or expectation of getting in return. I never am sure who gets blessed more...the giver or the receiver.

Zathyn Priest said...

Lovely story :) Angels certainly can appear in the most unexpected forms. I think if genuine aide is given without any strings attached, both the receiver and giver are equally as blessed.

Isadora said...

:) That is exactly the principle God's economy is built on - but it needs open hearts where the seed can be planted. how is your heart?

Jeni said...

Great story, Jeff. Five years ago this coming March, I was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer. I was unemployed at the time, no insurance and facing radiation, chemo, surgery and more chemo. So many things fell into place for me -my surgeon shipped me off to the welfare office, where the case manager gave me instructions on the nuances of getting a medical assistance card -which I got the next day, thankfully. My daughter and son-in-law who live with me were struggling, they had his oldest daughter living with us, my daughter was pregnant with her first child, and we really needed my unemployment checks to survive but I had to relinquish them. A week later, a very good old friend of mine from our church stopped to visit me and when he left, he pressed into my hand a roll of money -several hundred dollars as it turned out. I will never be in a situation where I can repay him that amount but I made up my mind then if I came through that mess ok, I would do whatever I could to repay my "debt" as it were. It took me close to a year to get back on my feet physically but when I did, I started volunteering to drive church members with no transportation to doctor appointments and such and when my little granddaughter was just a baby, (and I was babysitting her) I would often take her with me on those trips. Did that until I began having other health issues and my appointments too often conflicted with those who needed transit and also, my granddaughter got too unruly for a time to risk taking her too. Now, I just bake or fix food to take to people who need a little "pick-me-up." Not much, but if it brings a smile to their face, it's well worth it.

Dana said...

Aww Jeff, great story to start my Sunday with and a gentle reminder of the things potentially lost when we close our minds and our hearts.

Mel said...

I can't tell ya the number of times I've pulled out the big guns to shoot the angels sent to me.

*hanging head*

Stupid is as stupid does, eh?

BTW--there's no repaying a debt of gratitude--but I sure do have fun trying!

buffalodickdy said...

Nicely written! Years ago in on a snowy Michigan day headed home, I spied a piece of crap car dead in the water in a traffic lane, with two really old ladies standing by it-looking lost. Pulled in behind them( to block others from clobbering them!)and asked if I could help. Looking fearful and mistrusting, one said they were out of gas. By now another guy had pulled up, trying to help, too. I went and got the gas, he stayed back helping deflect rush hour traffic. They were so lost, and so scared.... Got the car running, and one old gal says "I had no idea there were people as nice as you in the world". I responded that there were good people everywhere- if you look, or give them a chance...

Jeff B said...

Jules- I've been guilty at times of deciding who a person is by their outwardly appearance anly to find out that I was totally wrong.

Zathyn- It's a classic win-win scenerio.

Isadora- I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior about six years ago. Thank you for asking.

I try not to shove religion down anybodies throat here, but will always be glad to stand up for my faith when asked.

Jeni- Sounds like this may have touched on some realities for you. I'm glad you were able to get through your ordeal with help and love from those around you.

It's so nice that you're helping others as you can too.

Dana- Whether or not a person is motivated by religon or something else there is something infectious about helping other people.

Mel- Welcome to the human race. For all the brain power we posses, it's amazing how little of it we can use at times.

Draw a line in the sand and let the past say behind it. Today is a brand new day!

Jeff B said...

Buffalo- Good for you for stepping up; small acts of kindness that make a huge impact for someone else. Please move to the front of the class and get your wings!

buffalodickdy said...

Me and God got an understanding- I'm doomed for all eternity, I just get sent back to help out any way I can! Some say that's an angel, but what it's more like is Community Service...:)"Do the right thing" is my motto- for real. Boy Scouts couldn't find their own ass with both hands!

Kerri said...

Ah Jeff! Here I am all teary eyed again! An absolutely wonderful story!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

You can't always judge a book by its cover. This is a perfect example. We need to help our fellow man/woman when we can. Very well done my friend. You write very well. Have a great Sunday. :)

Matt-Man said...

Bravissimo Jeff. Very nicely done, and a good message for all. Cheers!!

Roger said...

Great story Jeff!! Sorry I haven't been here lately it was a messed up week!

Jeff B said...

Buffalo- "Do the right thing" is a great motto to have.

Kerri- Thank you, Kleenex Co. is secretely paying me to write these.

Sandee- It's another way of interjecting a bit of peace in the world. Good point about a book and its cover.

Matt- Gratci, prego.

Roger- No problem, sounds like you've been pretty busy.

Anndi said...

Jeff darlin'... nicely done.

SMOOCH

Missed you during hell week.. hopefully I'll get a chance to visit more this week.

katherine. said...

well done.

you had the woman's thought progression perfectly...

it made me think how often we overlook doing a litle something...which could mean so much to someone else.

Bond said...

PAY IT FORWARD... I have been an advocate of this for many years...even carry the saying on the sidebar on The Couch...

I was the recipient of a good deed and have paid forward since

Well done Jeff...excellent in fact...

TY for sharing this wonderful story

Jeff B said...

Anndi- Hope you kicked butt, and it's nice to see you again.

Katherine- Thank you. Sometimes our businessness gets in the way of our thoughtfullness.

Bond- I remember watching a movie with, I believe the same title several years ago. (Pay it Forward-w/Kevin Spacey)

I thought it had a great message and have since tried to adopt the idea myself.