It was probably the 7th or 8th hour of our drive home on that icy day. I had all the girls in the car after getting them from my friend's house, and we were on the last leg of our trip home. Although finally only a few miles from home, this proved to be the worst part of our drive. Everything was iced over, many abandoned, broken down, or stuck cars were blocking the road along the way making it almost like a pinball machine to maneuver forward. We were heading up the last big hill of the main road, inching along when we suddenly came to a stop. About three cars ahead was a large sedan - obviously rear wheel drive - that kept spinning out and drifting sideways each time it tried to make it up this last hill. The two cars in front of me had stopped, and their drivers got out to go help push this car up the hill. However, even with their efforts, the car was hopeless - still spinning and at best was fishtailing in place. It would have been easy to give up, as it was seemingly impossible this car was going to be able to make the trek - even after the help of a few good Samaritans... but what happened next is what really struck me and has stayed with me as a life lesson.
Just when bystanders would assume the two guys would give up, two more guys in cars ahead of the stuck vehicle stopped and came backwards to assist. One of them positioned himself on the edge of the bumper to help control the fishtailing, and the other went over to the shoulder and started digging in the snow. "What in the world??" I thought. After digging for a few minutes, he walked further off the road towards the large fence and dug again. At this point I was seriously wondering if delirium was setting in - what was this guy doing? After a few minutes there, the man backed up, took a running start, and jumped - grabbing the top of the fence, and leaping over it to the woodsy area behind it. He dug around in the snow and after just a few more minutes it was apparent, finally, what he was doing. He was digging in the snow to find traction - branches, thatch, ground brush - anything he could grab to use to help the stuck car make it up the hill. Once he had obtained several sticks..etc... he threw them back over the fence, and took another running start from the other side, grabbing the top of the fence and forcefully lifting himself back over the top to the roadside. He gathered up all his findings and made his way back to the car where the other 3 good Samaritans had been holding the back of the car steady. Then, I watched. I watched as these 4 people, 3 of them with bare gloveless hands, laid the thatch and branches underneath the cars' back tires, would have him move forward a little bit and with their help pushing, actually started to inch along. After a few inches, the car would start to spin - and stop. And the same 4 people picked up the thatch and sticks, moved it in front of the cars' back tires, and inched him forward again. This happened the entire way up the hill. Once the car had made it over the crest, it was able to start cruising along again and the 4 volunteers returned to their cars and went on their way - followed by the rest of us now able to make it up the hill at a slow and steady pace since the stuck car had been moved.
I guess this stuck with me so much because it made me think - how often do we go out of our comfort zone to do what's right? To assist other people that may need help? I think of the 2 guys that were actually in front of this car - they had made it - they could have been on their merry way home, but instead they came back to help. How often do we pause, even when things are going well for us, to turn back and pick someone up who may be down, or who may be just a little behind us that could use some help. I think of the 2 guys that stopped our lines of traffic behind the car to help - easily targets of angry or impatient drivers, they could have been "booed" for their actions - but once people saw what they were doing, they realized it was actually going to help us all - not just the stuck car - so we could all make it up that hill in a safer way. How often do we stick our necks out for what is right, even though it may make those around us feel uncomfortable or say something about a wrongdoing even when the peer pressure is to stay silent?
We have all been in those situations over the course of life, but, I will argue as a special needs mom, I sometimes feel we are faced with more of those situations - it's just part of the territory. The action I witnessed that night on the road really spoke to me especially with a few incidents we have had to navigate in recent months with Meagan. Sometimes it is really hard to do the right thing - but just because it's hard doesn't mean it is the wrong decision. Matter of fact, it probably means the opposite. One of my main goals in raising my children has always been to make them compassionate and helpful adults - and with Meagan in the mix, it has really helped bring these qualities out of them. She is my strength and inspiration to stop standing silently in the crowd.
One day there was a woman behind us in line at Target in a wheelchair ....with a basket full of things that needed to go onto the counter. You could see her eyes assessing the situation as it moved closer to it being her turn. Reilly was standing with me - and I could tell immediately from her awkward glances and her shifting back and forth on her feet that she had noticed the same thing. From her body language, I could tell she wanted to help, but didn't really know how. I will admit, in these situations I tread lightly at times because while being helpful is a good thing, I also want to respect other people's independence, so when Reilly finally came to me and whispered that she wanted to help, I simply told her "... just ask first." So she took her shy little self over to the woman and I heard, quiet as a mouse, "May I put your things on the counter for you?" The woman's eyes lit up and she said "Why of course you can. Thank you!" The woman looked up at me and smiled, and Reilly's face had relaxed and beaming with pride, she slowly and carefully loaded the woman's items on to the counter. I will never really know if the woman needed Reilly to do that - but what I do know is that either way, she allowed Reilly to do something nice. That woman laid the thatch - helping Reilly learn that taking an uncomfortable chance was a good thing. She helped teach her that asking and helping accommodate was far better than watching, wondering, and then walking away.
Sometimes in life I feel like we get so caught up in rules and regulations and the status quo we forget that sometimes those rules are wrong - sometimes doing what is right is all that needs to be done to help our fellow human beings. We never know someone's situation, or the day they have had, or when there is just that moment someone needs a little faith in humanity. Those 4 guys getting out and helping the extraordinary ways they did probably thought nothing of it - but I noticed, and it touched me. And now an entire blog post about what those actions mean will reach many people.
Life is short - In situations where we witness a need, or see a wrong being committed, maybe instead of being blinded by "what has been" or the "status quo rules" we should stop, get out of our "safe zones"... get out of our "cars" and take the time to do what's right. Even if that means putting our hands in the freezing cold snow. Even if that means taking a leap of faith over the fence. Even if that means making other people possibly resent you or dislike you. We just never know what impact we will have for the greater good when we take these chances. We never know the lessons that may be learned or eyes that may be opened. We never know what it means for that child who yearns to make a difference, and is allowed to do so. More personally, we never know what it means to that special needs mom who just needs someone to recognize a tough situation and put tread under their tires to get them through it.
Dig in the snow. Jump the fence. Be uncomfortable to do what's right. People in the future faced with your same challenges, whom you may not even know, will be thankful that you took that chance, that you took the time to lay the thatch for them. And we will all be better for it.
“Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”
Archbishop Fulton Sheen