I bought a used Toyota 4Runner on Monday afternoon from a good friend I’ve known since high school who owns a car dealership here in Springfield. I totaled my other Toyota two weeks ago in my own driveway after an ice storm when a tree hit my car. I drove to work Tuesday morning looking forward to our staff huddle at 9am. About two miles from our chocolate factory at one of the busiest intersections in the city during rush hour, my 4Runner died. No power, nothing. I check all of the gauges to see what might be wrong. Really?! “I’ve got things to do, people to meet, and places to go,” I said to myself. “Crap, cars are barreling towards me from all directions and I can’t move this thing.” “Where are the hazard lights in my less than 24 hour old ride?” I ask myself. Ok, found them. Now most people are angry. I decide to get out, carefully, and lift my hood not because I have a clue about what’s under it but to signal that it’s not going to be moving anytime soon. I call my friend who I bought the car from and he says he will be there quickly from the other side of town. He feels terrible about it.
I knew I was going to miss our staff huddle and we were supposed to cover a really important topic. I felt terrible that I was in everyone’s way. I just sat there with no place to go with time to watch and think. There were three kinds of people I encountered: those who drove on by maneuvering around me making their way to their own huddles or whatever, angry people who honked and flipped me off, and then there were people who stopped to ask me if they could do something to help. Honestly, in my younger days I might have been in group number two but in my older years I am probably squarely in group one. I am the person would have driven right on by the guy in the 4Runner probably not even seeing him as I listened to my podcast on “enlightened ways to serve the world.”
I noticed a common thread in the third group, those who stopped to offer help. They were nearly all driving run down beat up trucks and cars with bumper stickers that announce a variety of political persuasions I might not agree with. In fact, while listening to the aforementioned podcast I might have even noticed those bumper stickers and scoffed or judged the drivers as losers. Person after person in this group stopped or slowed, rolled down their windows and asked if they could help me. A side note here to quickly dispense with the notion that sometimes stopping to help may not be safe. Why would the people in this third this group so readily try to help me? It’s because they saw themselves in my distress. They’ve been where I was, stranded, needing help from a stranger.
This roadside breakdown really taught me a lot. I want to change. I don’t want to be the person that “drives on by” not seeing those around me in need in my town, on my street, in my company, in my own family. I want to see the hoods up, the signals of distress, and stop to offer help. Who am I to judge the content of a person’s character by the brand or condition of their car, their clothing? Or even the bumper stickers they might display. I am embarrassed by my surprise of who came to my assistance. I have a lot to learn and am thankful for this lesson.