I offered to help some people today whose car broke down.
I also learned that offering a helping hand sometimes just isn’t enough without more. Sometimes you just can’t help and realizing that is enlightening.
Two people, one with a thumb extended, stood behind a car with its trunk open. As I drove past them this morning the person with the thumb out look right at me, and I felt a tinge of guilt for not stopping immediately, thinking instead of the many chores I had just created on my “To Do” list. But before I got to the next intersection, Chestnut Hill College, I chose to turn around, go back and help to rescue the unfortunate travellers.
I stopped traffic as a I pulled a U-turn on busy Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. I parked on the shoulder, checked cars coming from behind, then jumped from my vehicle, ready to offer a ride to the person “thumbing.” It turned out the thumb belonged to a middle age woman and her companion daughter.
How can I help you,” I beamed. Here I was, just a week after helping two people in what I perceived to have faced a similar problem, and I looked forward to the feeling of gratefulness that I experienced in assisting a stranger. I’m getting good at this “Good Samaritan,” stuff, I thought. I AM a Good Person! I AM Somebody! . . . . I am One Who Walks With God . . . .
“Do you know how to change a tire?” the mother asked.
Oh crap, I thought. I have to break out a dictionary to figure out what a tire iron is, let alone name a jack. My father never owned a car. He was a city man who rode the buses. I never learned about cars, fixing them, or the need to change tires. I have Triple AAA, for God’s sake. I just call and help is on the way!
But could I change a tire? I wanted to try. But I also wanted to be honest, so I told the woman of my dillhema. I don’t know much about this, this changing a tire, I said. I wasn’t even sure if I had the tools for it.
I opened my car trunk, and the woman immediately spotted what she told me was a jack. I pushed clothing, blankets and water bottles off of other objects that littered the floor of my trunk and came up with a long black metal object which she told me we would need to use with the jack. Did she call it tire iron? She might have, but my “manliness” gland would not let me to show this much ignorance to anyone, particularly, a woman who probably expected all guys to know how to fix cars simply as their way of life.
I’m sorry, I don’t. I can shoot a rifle, sing baritone in a harmony group, and write a good story as well as one helluva legal brief, not to mention sway 12 people judging the guilt or innocence of some defendant at a Court trial. But change a tire?
Humph! Nothing to it.
So I thought.
We both walked to the front of the car. the flat was on the right front. She started to place the jack beneath the car and then asked me if we should support the vehicle in a way to prevent it from sliding forward. The street was on a downward slope, a good-size slope that posed a problem. The car could easily tilt and come crashing down off the jack and on someone or someone’s body part beneath.
We looked at each other. We both saw what I believe was uncertainty in the other person’s eyes.
She handed the tools back to me.
She thanked me.
I walked away wishing her luck with the person on the line her daughter had just reached via a cell phone. Help was on the way, she assured me.
What did I learn from this? Sometimes the best intentions are not enough to help someone in need. You got to have the resource, the knowledge to truly help. otherwise you could end up being a hindrance.
Timing can also be critical.
How often have I spoken to friends and associates about Meditation in hopes of sparking some interest, in hopes of providing them “help” in their life’s paths. Or, how often have I tried to encourage my wife, a professional newspaper editor, to seek outside activities following a traumatic brain injury that happened three years ago, causing such despair that she often tells me and our 17-yr-old son that she has “nothing to live for” after losing her job, her career, her self.
I go out of my way to give her with ideas, suggestions, articles to read — to help her want to get out of the house where her few indoor activities include reading newspapers, books, and internet news and non-fiction stories. Nothing I suggested has helped. Nothing has provided what she really wants or needs now. Sometimes, that can only come from within.
And, I guess I began to help myself by learning a little more about that today.