So, it had been my intention to do this the whole month of November, but welcome to me. Better late than never - at this rate I may have this project done by November of this year :) What with my life being what it is - you know, acting as chauffeur, lecturer (to children who need a dose of my wisdom), lunch-maker, laundry maid, and pseudo-doctor when Grandma's got major toenail fungus (yes, these days this process of soak, treat, get the water temp just right, occupies a good few hours of my day), or kids are sniffly, and also doing doggie oversight while kids are at school - you know, all that and more, I often have blog posts floating in my head, sometimes popping up at inopportune times (like, midnight or such and I can't drag myself out of bed to wander to the computer to turn it on and blah blah blah...you know).
One of these that has been sitting in my head is that I am thankful for the help of strangers. There are more than I can count or recall - like the time just after college when I went to visit a friend in Minnesota in the dead of winter and I veered off into the middle pit of a two lane highway...and how a very kind person stopped to help, drove me to their home, let me use their phone to call a tow truck, gave me a cup of something or other and drove me back to the highway after an hour. I don't know who these people are - at the time I think I got their name and address, intending to send off a thank-you, but as with many things with me, good intentions but poor on the follow-through. So, if by some chance that kind person ever gets to read this: thank you.
But more recently I did get a name, and even a number of the kind person that stopped to help me. And I lost it, but I remember the name, so here I am, thanking God for the kindness of strangers yet again. It seems I too often end up needing assistance here or there - thanks to my scatterbrained-ness. Like last year when I went to Chicago for a funeral and forgot my phone. I took a wrong turn. I didn't know how to get there - my kids are watching from the backseat wondering how this is all going to go:
"Oh, look, a McDonald's! I think there's a payphone there! I'll run in, call Daddy to direct me and we'll be on our way!"
"Sorry, kids, the payphone thingy was empty - I forgot there aren't payphones anymore...oh, look! A taxi! He's parking! Taxi drivers know everything! I'll ask him!"
Sure enough, the taxi driver DID know everything, and helped me on my way. To get to this place I stopped to ask at least 4 other people - and all were so helpful. Lesson I taught my kids: People over technology, every time! People are so helpful and willing to help and we'll get there and it'll be okay and we don't need to stress, just pray and ask for help.
Well, the 'People over technology' has proved true over and over again. Just over 2 months ago I was on my way to pick up Caleb from visiting a small college in Iowa. This time I did not forget my phone! Yay me! There I am, happily driving along through small towns and enjoying the scenery and imagining a simpler, less-harried life that these quaint, small towns must offer and I suddenly notice I'm low on gas. Enter technology. Surely I can pull out my phone and navigate to the nearest gas station. Surely...NOT. So I pull over to try to focus more carefully on how to find things. The thing is, on a regular map, I can turn it around so I'm facing the direction I'm going. But on a phone map, it keeps turning the map every time I turn the phone, so I get confused and can't figure out my bearings. I decide I'll just call Sam back at home to ask him to navigate for me...
Sam says, "Are you east or west of (this particular road)?" I tell him what I think, but I'm looking at the map wrong and got it upside down. And all this while the car is idling, and I'm beginning to panic - like, oh no, I'm in the middle of nowhere and I'm 2 miles, now 1 mile til empty. Thank you, technology for so quickly reminding me of my predicament, and for counting down the minutes til I'm high and dry. I tell Sam, thank you and that a pickup truck has just stopped to check on me since I look fairly randomly placed on the side of a road yelling at my phone. Hopefully the guy didn't notice my frustration with the phone.
Enter the kindness of strangers: Rich Tessendorf (I think that's what his name was, I lost the paper it was jotted on). He says, "Can I help you?" By all means, YES! "I'm almost out of gas, I just need to get to the nearest gas station." "Can you make it another mile? I'm heading that way, just follow me." And I was ever grateful. So he leads me to the nearest gas station - embedded in one of those cute little towns I was imagining in my daydreams. Now, this was an exceptional stranger - and added to my mantra - not only 'People over technology, every time!' But now it is, "Small town people over technology, every time!' Because not only did he pull into the gas station, but he hopped out to check and make sure all was well. At this point I'm leaning over to the other seat, digging through my purse to get my wallet. Wallet...oh where are you, wallet?
Kind stranger stands there. Watching. Humoured. Perhaps chuckling at this sight. I am mortified. I know about these situations. Yes, there's always a story: "I just need a few gallons of gas! I left my wallet at home..." And here I am with that story. And I'm thinking, I know what he must be thinking. But he's not thinking that. He is genuine. Trusting. I am horrified that I am out in the middle of cute-ville with an empty tank and a wallet that is at home, 2 hours away.
He offers me money. MONEY. I am shocked. By his kindness. His helpfulness. I am thinking he's perhaps an angel - you know, those angel stories you read about in Chicken Soup for the Sentimental Soul books. (Wait, I'm not sure I've really read those, but I imagine there are these kinds of stories in them). I am too embarrassed to accept. He says, "Well, let's go inside and see if they can help." We walk into the gas station store and he calls out, "Hey Melissa (not sure if I remember her name right), this young lady needs some help." Now I'm in real small-town culture shock. The guy just waltzes in and calls the station clerk by name, like that's normal. As if everyone knows each other's names around here. And I guess they do. Not to mention that I don't exactly qualify as a 'young lady,' but I'm touched by the compliment.
Thankfully they are able to take a credit card over the phone via Sam (Sam is used to coming to my rescue from afar, but in this situation it was like a team was required to help me on my way).
So, after all that I ponder the kind mercies of God, the blessings of helpful people and the kindness of strangers. And I think, this - THIS is something to be thankful for.
And if Rich ever happens to see this (or was it Rick?) - thank you, thank you. People like you restore my faith in humanity.
(Feel free to share if you know this guy)