I am not a pessimistic person by nature however some may call me paranoid. I dislike crowds, I dislike settings where I cannot arm myself, and I dislike being forced into situations with people I do not know. I tend to assume everyone has an agenda or ulterior motive and will hurt or take from me if they are given the chance. Simply put, I do not trust people.
This type of mentality usually results in people thinking I am a jerk or “stand-off-ish” when they first meet me. Unfortunately first impressions are everything and this has led to lasting negative impressions and opinions of me and my character. (Luckily I am able to put on a smile and act outgoing in my professional life.) I should say that I really do not care what people think about me, especially those who really don’t know me very well. However, on more than one occasion I feel that my apprehensiveness and alertness of my surroundings (people, places, situations, etc.) has kept me from potentially dangerous outcomes.
Having said all of that, I would like to share with you a story of something that just happened not an hour ago that has helped me to believe there is still good in people.
It is a hot day today, with the mercury hovering right around 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), the sun shining brightly and unobstructed, and the humidity cresting 80%. Safe to say it is not a day to be outside for any length of time. I was on a 3-lane road in the city I reside (not a highway, but a main thoroughfare) headed between locations and traveling in the far left lane. The traffic lights (horribly timed as always) were beginning their daily routine of backing everyone up in all lanes of travel. I was coming up a slight incline to a light that was turning red when I noticed the right lane was already stopped. I figured there was someone turning into one of the many fast-food places, but as I neared I noticed it was a disabled vehicle. My first thought was very selfish: “Great, this is going to cause a mess for rush-hour traffic.” It was immediately following that thought, however, that I decided to do something to help.
As I’ve said before I am not a fan of people, especially ones I do not know, but this was an opportunity for me to help not only the stranded motorist but the scores of people who were getting ready to head home from their work day on this road. I put on my blinker (a lost art these days) and worked my way from the far left lane to the far right lane. As I neared the disabled car the driver, an African-American man in his 60’s, opened his door and began to attempt to push his vehicle (large sedan) up the incline we were on. I rolled down my passenger front window as I came along side of him and said, “I have a tow rope, I’ll pull your car into the Burger King.” I then parked my vehicle (a Jeep Patriot 4×4) directly in front of his, put on my hazard lights (flashers), and got out to help.
There was a white man, probably in his early 40’s, who was stuck behind the disabled vehicle who had also gotten out to help and he asked me, “Want to help me push?” I explained that I had a tow rope in my car and that it would be much easier to tow the car up the incline versus attempting to push it (remember the weather from before). He agreed and I got the rope out of the Jeep.
I carry a LOT of things in my vehicle that are “preparedness” items, some for everyday occurrences (flat tire, stranded car, etc.) and some for “SHTF”-type situations. I recommend it’s something that everyone practice because while you may never need it for your own use, it may save the life of another someday.
I have never used the tow rope before, and thus was not very comfortable with its operation. My jeep, thankfully, has factory tow points that are rated, but I wasn’t sure where on the underside of the stranded vehicle I should loop the tow rope around. While I was down looking for attachment points under the disabled car, an African-American man about my age appeared and, from the looks of his attire, was a mechanic of sorts. He crawled down underneath and looped the tow rope around the lower control arm (not the best spot but all we really had to work with) and I attached the other end to the rear tow point on the Jeep. We then worked as a team, communicating constantly, to pull the disabled car into the parking lot of the Burger King and found a shady spot to park it until professional help could arrive.
The story does not end there, however.
As I was winding my tow rope back up to be placed back in my vehicle (always treat your tools well and put them back so you know they will be in good working order and easy to find when you need them again) I overheard another person who had stopped to help (an African-American female in her early 30’s) talking with the stranded motorist. I heard her saying “Is everything OK? Are you guys alright? Do you need a ride somewhere? I’ll take you wherever you need to go.” I was floored. Here we are, a group of mixed-race people of all ages with nothing but kindness in our heads and hearts willing to do what we can to help these people in need. Yes, people. It was at this point I heard the lady offering to help say, “I saw the baby in the backseat and had to stop to help. It’s too hot to be stranded, let alone with a baby.”
At this I realized my observations had failed me slightly. No, there was not a threat and I did not feel uncomfortable in any way, but while I did notice a woman (presumably the stranded-man’s wife) in the front passenger seat, I had COMPLETELY missed the fact that there was a child, no older than 2 years old, in the back seat (presumably their grandchild). On top of all that, I also realized that the mechanic-man who helped with the tow rope had a younger girl (presumably his daughter) of about 7 years old in the passenger seat of his truck.
In one simple sentence, this “melted my heart” and restored my faith in humanity.
I am sure that sometime soon I will see or hear about something that will discourage me from believing people, given a choice, will do the right thing, but in this moment in time, in the 5-minutes it took to help this family it seemed all was right in the world. Here we were of all different backgrounds, ages, races, walks of life, and skill sets, but we banded together for a complete stranger in their time of need and offered what we were good at and what we could to help. It left me speechless.
Understand something. This is not a story to “beat my chest” or boast about my “good deed for the day” in any way, and if you’ve read it that way then I’m sorry to say you’re the reason I think the way I do. This story was meant to show people like me; pessimists, paranoids, kermudgens, that not everyone in this world is a bad person. In fact, the vast majority of humanity (in my opinion) will do the right thing every time, given the choice. Unfortunately it’s the few, the miniscule percentage, that will take advantage whenever possible to better themselves that keep others from offering their assistance, and it’s impossible to know when you’ve come across one until it is too late. (We’ve all heard the stories of the “stranded” person on the side of the highway at night and when someone stops to help people come out of the woods and beat/rob them.)
So, for those who currently think the way I do (in my first couple paragraphs), I offer this: The next time you see someone in need, whether they are a dollar short at the register, or disabled in traffic, or struggling to pick something up or hold it in place, help them out. I believe in the butterfly effect, that every good deed observed triggers a desire to “pay it forward”. This Liberty Mutual commercial portrays exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, it’s 4 minutes but it’s well worth the watch. Maybe it will inspire you, the reader, to go out of your way to help someone…