The kindness of strangers…

…I’ve decided to make a Sprout. Clearly I’m bingeing on Amy’s work right now, eh? I’ll have to spin something for it.

Several of you have suggested a dew themed name for the triangle. I like that. It is now the Dew Drop Shawl… and partly charted. I hope you can guess what that means! Thank you all for suggestions.

I’d planned yesterday to go to the bead shop in town and buy some nicer beads to switch to at the logical point in the shawl to do so — which was 2 rows away, so clearly, I had to go now. Unfortunately though, this was not to be. I had a pile of packages outbound from over the weekend, so I loaded them into the Trans Am and headed to pick Edward up from day camp, figuring I had a clear win with “Help me with all these packages and then an errand to the bead store, and you get a slushy on the way home.”

The proposal was definitely a win; unsurprising, since it was pushing 100F, and on the muggy side. We made it to the post office without event, and the manchild was a tremendous help getting everything shipped, then opining on the differences in cost between shipping to the UK and Canada. We hopped in the Mommy Car, I turned the key, and she went CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK WHINE, reset all the electronics, opened the rear hatch and popped the trunk.

Oh my.

Now, mind you, the Mommy Car, whose name is Ginny, is 7 years old; but she’s a creampuff. They really don’t get much more creampuffy than she is. In 2000 when I bought her new, there was talk of her discontinuation and you had to know that she was getting on towards being the last of the real American muscle cars. She was built to eat the Interstate Highway system for lunch and come back for dinner, then belch loudly, cruise slowly down the street with a V8 growl, hover in anticipation at a red light and, when it turns green, leave anybody else there in a cloud of rubber-scented smoke waiting to follow twin black streaks of rubber into the distance where, by the time they catch up, Ginny’s already set up a picnic and taken the t-tops off and makes a killer stereo too.

Or, you know, pick up the kid from day camp, run to the post office, hit the supermarket, that sort of thing. And let us not forget take the t-tops off and opt for the back roads at 45 or 50, smelling the breeze and blinking in the dappled sun filtering through the trees, hair a tangled mess and slathered in sunscreen, running an errand a few towns over. Mmmmm.

I mean, okay, so she isn’t built for heavy hauling. Or long road trips with more than one passenger. Or being easy to get in and out of. Or being easy to park, especially if you feel like opening the doors. And she definitely ain’t built for the ice and snow (as the snowplow guy warned me vigorously and earnestly this past winter when he saw her in the garage), and actually, with the wrong tires on her, I’d hate to drive her through a big puddle (even though she did brilliantly last summer carrying Edward and I safely home from New Hampshire through a thunderstorm so bad there was literally nowhere to pull off to the shoulder of I-90 through New York, because everybody else had already pulled over). And yeah, the driver’s side window keeps having that annoying problem with raising.

Make no mistake, though, she’s mine and I adore her. Man, did I pitch a colossal, epic, Latina-style temper tantrum in Spanish at the car wash guys who chipped her paint last year when I was getting her cleaned up for her trailer ride to her new home. Yep, I know where every scratch and ding she’s gotten is, and how they all happened. I know there are plenty of folks who think I’m silly about this — like the people who’ve tried to talk me into selling her over the years (seriously — like when we were buying Chad’s truck, and the guy, thinking he might make another sale, asked me what I was driving, and I told him, and he ended up trying to convince me to take $5500 less in trade for her than I’d paid new 6 years before — as if!) She’s good to me, my creampuff! She’s a loyal sweetheart. You can’t have her.

So there I was at the post office, Edward in the passenger seat, all the needles flat, the starter clearly working fine, can’t roll the windows up and down, everything that can be opened electrically open, miserable, her clock flashing 12:00 and the odometer not reading (even though I know full well it says 19,793). Oh, hell no. I turned off everything powered, and tried again, to no avail. “Oh no, poor Mommy Car!” Edward said. I gave him a warning look (you know, don’t talk bad about her, she’ll be fine! Watch your words, whippersnapper!) and got out to check connections on the battery.

“Do you need a jump?” asked the lady parked beside me, shutting off her car and stepping out.

“Dunno,” I said. “Looks that way.” I looked for my AAA card, and remembered I’d forgotten to send back that RENEW NOW thing a couple of months ago. Aw, crap. The kind lady then insisted on calling AAA on her card, and waiting. I couldn’t believe it, and thanked her profusely. “You would do the same for me,” she said, “and it’s hot, and you have a kid with you, don’t even think about it.”

No sooner had she gotten off the phone than a fellow in a battered pickup truck pulled up on the other side of me. “You need a jump?” he asked. “Yeah, but she’s just called AAA,” I replied. “Oh heck no,” he said, “You could be here waiting for hours!” But then he found his son had run off with his jumper cables. I’ve no idea where the ones I used to have in the back of my car are, either. The guy dashed into the post office, and emerged a minute later with a young woman who trotted over to her car and returned with cables. Everybody then proceeded to orchestrate the parking lot traffic such that the guy could pull his truck up in position to jump start Ginny, who started right up. “It’s probably just your battery,” said the pickup truck guy, “but you’ll want to get that checked out to make sure it’s not the alternator. You live close? You got everything you need to get home and whatnot?” I assured everyone that I did, and everything was allright, and thanked them all profusely, thinking again how much I like my small Midwestern town, where multiple strangers of obviously varying racial and economic backgrounds, ages, careers and so on, wouldn’t dream of not springing into action to help out a mom with a kid and car trouble on a miserable hot day.

The same thing proved out at the GM dealership not a mile away, as I decided — it being almost 5pm by this time — that if I just headed home, I’d have the same problem, and be down a dead end road a few miles out of town, so the smart thing to do would be to see if I couldn’t just manage to get the problem solved forthwith. I pulled into the service area, hopped out (leaving the car running and Edward watching it as I stood a few yards away) and explained my problem and that, with my better half out of town overnight, we’d no other transportation for now and so on. “We’ll take care of you,” they said, and some 90 minutes and a new battery later, all was well.

I couldn’t help thinking how if this had happened in the parking lot at, say, Fry’s Electronics, I’d probably still be sitting in the parking lot today, unless somebody had called the cops on me for loitering, or something. It wouldn’t have been a virtually stress-free inconvenience causing nothing worse than missing the bead shop’s hours and a late dinner.

“Hey, Edward,” I said later, over that dinner, “Did you notice how lots of people went out of their way to help us out today?”

“Yeah!” he replied. “Why did they?”

“Well,” I told him, “we were lucky, for one thing. And we should be sure to remember to be grateful for it, and be the same kind of people ourselves.” I reminded him of the time he and I had given a lady with a flat tire a ride to her in-laws’ house, taking 30 or 40 minutes of our evening to do so, somewhat to his irritation at the time.

“Does that mean we’re all even with the karma of it now?” he asked.

“Well, some folks would definitely say it was karma that meant we got helped, when we’ve helped someone before, but I don’t think there’s any real making it even,” I said. “I think the way it works is that if you want there to be people in the world who’ll help a stranger, you have to be a person who’ll help a stranger. After all, if you wouldn’t do it, why should anybody else?”

He nodded, thinking about that. “Makes sense,” he said. That’s the thing I’m happiest about with this whole story — that it makes sense to him in that way, that it’s good for a person to be helpful and kind without a clear motive other than kindness and doing right, because the world needs people who are kind and generous and helpful and not looking to get something out of it. I’m glad of an object lesson that shows him one gets out of the world what one puts into it.

I’m also glad that, instead of having a dye day today as I had planned, I decided to sit down, have one more cup of coffee, and write this up! Why? Because shortly after I sat down, it began to thunder and rain, and close to an inch has fallen while I’ve been writing this. With lightning getting closer, I think I’m going to shut off unneeded electronics and go sit and spin a while instead.

And hey — Ginny’s battery could have given up the ghost in this downpour instead of last night. We’ve just got all kinds of great luck, and I’m thankful for all of it.

14 thoughts on “The kindness of strangers…

  1. What a wonderful story. I love to hear about people helping. It seems to be less common than I want at times, so these stories always reinforce my faith in us. I’m glad Ginny’s feeling better and hope you have a restful day spinning!

  2. i’m a firm believer in paying it forward. i do a ton of charity knitting & crocheting (my kids aren’t terribly appreciative of my efforts right now, lol). i also don’t look for people to help me out, which tends to have the effect that people want to help. and it makes me feel good. i try to teach my boys that (the girls are out ofthe house, so there’s not a ton to be done with them), with the thought that they’ll help where they can. in fact, when 9/11 happened, my older son (who was 9at the time) offered to give his favorite teddy bear to one of the kids who’d lost their dad/mom. with tears in his eyes because he loved his teddy so much. now THAT is sacrifice (we ended up buying anew one so he could keep his teddy, but it was definitely the thought).

  3. How great is it that Edward appreciated the help you received and understood that helping each other really helps ourselves! Nothing makes my heart warm more than when MY mancub shows maturity and kindness towards others. Thanks for sharing that story!

  4. Yay for teachable moments! (Doesn’t it kinda suck that once there’s a Big Fancy Title for it, it kinda becomes a burden? Or maybe that’s just me.) Anyway, cool that your kid was able to see it in action. (Had it been me, my kid would likely have learned that Big Girls Do Indeed Cry, and maybe a new swearword or two.)

  5. Stories like yours are not uncommon around here (MN), either – in fact, kindness of strangers is one of the reasons I liked coming back to the Midwest after nearly a decade on the east coast.

    Btw, I got my batt club stuff last night – looks so nice! But what is in it?

  6. That story gave me warm fuzzies. I love hearing about things like that because it gives me hope, and it reminds me that not everyone sucks. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Thanks for helping Edward to grow up and “be that guy”… the guy who helps strangers, who makes the world a safe place for others, who cares.

  8. Thank you for sharing this lovely story. There is hope for this world as long as we are willing to help one another.

  9. Hey, don’t knock Fry’s (too much… even though it’s insane)! I’ve offered to help people out there before, actually (though I don’t think I’ve ever been taken up on it).

  10. I love small towns, it’s so cool that there were so many people there to help you.

    BTW – if you call AAA, they will still come, you’ll be billed but so long as you send in your renew right away they’ll take care of it.

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