The Art of ….kindness
First- let me apologize. I have tried for nearly two weeks to slim this blog entry down. I did manage to shave off eight hundred words (which of course I just added with this disclaimer)- however, I feel like this story needs to be told. Please stick with me until the end. I PROMISE the next blog entry will be MUCH briefer. Thank you in advance for your grace….
It seems to me that we forget how a simple act on our part affects another life. We learn more and more each day about how our “footprint” affects the environment of the earth. Every single thing we do from buying Styrofoam cups or conversely perhaps planting a tree seems to truly have an impact.
What about our humanity?
After camping for a weekend with my treasured family, the journey home became one interesting adventure.
I will spare you the gory details, however I will share that in the few hours before we managed to pack up the car and leave a fire extinguisher, teeming rain and much frustration and anxiety all became involved.
That was before we even left the campground.
We were wet, cold and muddy. Oh, and there was no heat in the minivan
AND- it didn’t start.
After a quick boost from my brother- our minivan was revived. Gratefully we were on our way.
As the morning hadn’t been enough “fun” within the first ten miles our journey our minivan chugged and choked and came to a horrible stop.
We were in the middle of nowhere, with nearly dead cell phones (remember we were camping for the weekend? We enjoyed roughing it but had no electricity to charge cell phones) and yes, it was still raining- harder in my head then outside our still and sad mini-van. But yes, the rain was there.
Again, I will spare you the unpleasant details. Eventually AAA was called. The good news is they would arrive within ninety minutes. The bad news? The tow home would be $3.50 a mile (for about 80 miles) and could only seat two of the four of us.
Now with the pouring rain, enter a good side dish of despair.
We were stranded with an automobile that now required (no doubt) a pricey repair but also was going to cost us hundreds of dollars to just get it home. Let’s not even mention the fact that there were four of us to get home and a very limited opportunity to try to explain to someone where we were to rescue us. Oh and don’t forget the pouring rain!
My husband decided to walk back to the previous town to try to get an understanding of where we were so that perhaps we could call my father to come and rescue us. AAA said it would take at least an hour and a half.
The children began leaking their angst in hushed tones
My stress level began to rise
As countless cars, trucks and tractor trailers speed past us, an SUV stops at the stop sign perpendicular from where our minivan sits lifeless on the road. It stops for an unusual amount of time. I am watching this vehicle with growing suspicion as my children have now began to share words of comfort recognizing my strain.
Eventually an older gentleman comes over to us and tells us that we are going to move the mini-van out of the way because he worries we will get hit by a speeding vehicle. My husband has not returned from his venture and I am overwhelmed by the offer of help.
Not in a good way.
It feels like another decision I need to make and I am concerned I am making the wrong one. Obviously it is a good thing to get off a main road; however, I worried that something further would go wrong in our attempt or perhaps trusting this man was the wrong choice.
I was relieved to see my husband hurrying back to the car.
Obviously the choice was clear.
We moved the car and ironically in spite of the slipped discs in my back, it felt great to move it. I could do something proactive. It meant something. I wasn’t just sitting there.
Then I called my father. As soon as he agreed to come rescue us I burst into tears. What a dweeb.
My father asked a simple question, “Where exactly are you?”
I still had no clue where I was, so I passed the phone to my husband who in turn passed it to the man who stopped to help us. I heard him tell my father that we would be waiting for him at McDonalds on Route 96. In my head, I thought, “We are? How are we getting there? WITHOUT Duffy?”
A new level of panic set in.
After hanging up with my father, a new conversation ensued. This man, a little quirky, seemed to be pretty harmless. He offered for Duffy (my husband) to use the phone at his house if need be. He then kindly motioned for us to get in the car. My husband, sensing my anxiety thanked him, but then said, “You have been so helpful, and I don’t even know your name.”
“Vincent” he stated- “Vincent Smith”
The two men shook hands as if to sort of seal the agreement to keep us safe and deliver us quickly to the Mecca of Grease. I kissed my husband goodbye, told him I loved him and got into the SUV with our new friend Vincent.
I admit it. I had some anxiety. Two of my three children sat quietly in the back seat while I made conversation with Vincent trying to insure his honorable motives.
I am ashamed of myself for being nervous.
I am even more ashamed of a society that manufactures fear of anyone you don’t know.
Vincent chatted away for the next five miles as he described the landscapes that we were passing. He pointed out schools that he devoted his free time to care for. He retired a few years back and his advice to me was to NEVER retire. He said that he was happiest being busy and thought I would be too. He told me countless stories in this very brief ride.
We laughed, we shared, and we bonded.
Then, I offered Vincent gas money for being so kind to us.
Here’s what he said, ”well Ma’am that would be an insult! This is a holiday (it was Labor Day) and I am just trying to help someone out!”
Tears welled up in my eyes.
Not because I didn’t give him $10 for gas, but because I didn’t trust him, because I even feared him a little. But more- because I was in the middle of nowhere, on the way home after an extremely stressful morning- and my new friend Vincent, was there to save the day and keep us safe.
I was grateful.The rain began to clear a little. Both the storm in my head, and the one outside.
Here is what I hope you take from this. It is a weird and wacky world out there… Unfortunately experience has taught us that we are to be at the least cautious, I suppose that lesson remains. However, maybe just maybe we can take the time to be a “Vincent” to someone else.
Vincent (along with my father who came out a cold and rainy day to rescue his family) just did what any decent person would do. He isn’t going to win a medal for it, or be mentioned in the newspaper. He is a common man, looking out for someone in need.
With his simple act of kindness- he became MY hero.
It’s our turn next- We don’t have to run out to try to save the world. Not really- we just be a little kinder, share a kind word, a card of encouragement. It’s been my experience that we never really appreciate the impact of our actions- both negative and positive.
Vincent made a difference. So can I.
Oh, and just one more thing- be open to the blessings of a stranger- your life will be richer