When I attempted to pull into what I had already mentally claimed as my parking spot, it wasn’t available. I irritably rounded the corner to circle the block one more time. As I turned onto the next block I came upon an older Nissan Passport sitting halfway in a parking spot and halfway in the street.
“What is this car doing??” I thought. “I’m already half past hungry and my patience tank is running on empty.” Anxious to park so I could make a mad dash for the deli, I pulled into the closest spot I saw. I decided I’d rather walk to the deli than try and finagle my way around this car. But as I was pulling into the lot, I saw an older lady step outside the driver’s side door, walk to the front of her car and attempt to open the hood.
It was at that very moment I thought of my friend, Michelle. A few days ago she posted on Facebook an experience she had earlier in the day. The story brought tears to my eyes moved me in ways I thought about for hours following her post.
While driving home from work she came upon a broken down car on the side of the road. When she pulled over she met the driver who was hearing impaired. He had been sitting in his car for over an hour waiting for someone to stop and help. He was shaken from the experience, not able to call anyone because of his hearing impairment, and running low on blood sugar due to diabetes. She called AAA, bought him a cheeseburger and talked with him for over an hour until AAA arrived. She wrote the story (which I did not do justice) not because she wanted to boast, but because she was inspired by this man who, despite his own disability and needs, drove from Idaho to help a friend in need. She wrote the story as a testament to God’s blessings who saved her from immobilizing depression a few weeks earlier and used her on that day to help that man on that road. Her story exemplified to me how helping someone else can heal two broken spirits. The spirit of the person being helped and our own.
I cried when I read her post. I cried for the helplessness that man must have felt while waiting for help. I cried for the beautiful and generous soul of my friend. I cried because her story inspired me to be a better person. I cried when I asked myself if I would have stopped.
So today as I came upon the broken down Nissan and the older lady standing at the hood of the car I was no longer listening to my stomach, but to Michelle’s story.
As I offered the older lady my help and my phone to call someone, I commented on the cute little dog she had bouncing around in the front seat. She told me with a broken voice, he was all she had. The dog… was all she had.
Her husband of 50 years had just passed away two months ago after a seven year battle with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She took care of him by herself in their home the entire time… until the final days when she needed hospice assistance. She cried. I cried. And I hugged this complete stranger standing in front of her broken down Nissan.
After wiggling a few wires (which I doubt did anything but make us feel like we were doing something) her car started back up. I followed her a few miles back to her home to ensure she got home safely. Her kids live on the Peninsula so she is essentially living all alone in this area. I gave her my phone number, and the number for AAA.
I cried all the way home thinking of this lady who took care of her husband for years, but is now all alone to take care of herself. I thought of my mom and the loss she felt after losing my dad. I thought of Michelle’s kind gesture. I thought of how thankful I was I had to work late today. I thought of how not getting my parking spot and driving around the block led to a important moment in time.
Our behavior is contagious. If we yawn in a meeting, we will notice within seconds two or three others have caught the bug. A crabby driver honks at us in irritation which causes our crappy mood, which transfers to a shortness of patience with our kids and hangs over the dinner table like a dark cloud. A complete stranger smiles at us on the street corner, and while smiling back we feel our mood lighten. We, in turn, smile at someone else in the grocery story which may negate the irritable driver who honked at them earlier in the day. One kind gesture can change the course of someone’s day and inspire kinder hearts all over.
Be kind. Be open. Be willing.