I spend a lot of time thinking these days. It happens – you’re in an empty house and you can only carry on so many conversations with the cats before you become worried that you think you’re hearing them talk back…
So I spend lots of time thinking. And this week I’ve been thinking about people and relationships.
A few days ago I was on my way to the local hardware store to take my tiller in for repair when two cars smashed together right in front of me. I was sitting at a light when a Ford Explorer made a left turn in front of a car traveling straight at 45 mph. They hit head on and the car came to rest next to my truck while the Explorer u-turned and ended up sitting on the curb a few feet in front of me. I jumped out of the truck and checked on the driver of the car. He was a man in his late-20’s, and other than dealing with the shock of the accident and the airbag going off in his face, he seemed fine. He climbed out of the car and I went to check on the Explorer, which was now surrounded by people who had appeared out of the stores and parking lot next to the accident site. I heard a woman on the phone with 911 already, so I knew I didn’t need to make that call; but as I approached the Explorer I saw that the two passengers were at least in their late 80’s. They looked stunned and confused, and the woman complained of some chest pains. I went around to the driver’s to check on the man, and he was quite shaken up, but seemed to be okay beyond a bloody lip.
So I witnessed an auto accident. Big deal, right? Well, actually it was because I watched a group of strangers, from different age groups, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds all focus on one thing – making sure everyone was okay. The older woman was able to get out of the car, but couldn’t walk, stating that she had recently undergone leg surgery and had difficulty walking. She was also quite confused and in a bit of shock. An extremely large man approached her and offered to carry her away from the car, and when that seemed to scare her a bit, another slightly older man approached her and began gently speaking to her to keep her calm. About then, the police, fire, and EMT teams arrived and took over. I spoke with one of the officers and gave him my account of the accident. The police eventually cleared a path for me and I continued on my way.
A couple of days later my phone began to buzz as I was receiving the same text blast from THE WIFE and THE NEIGHBOR about another neighbor (THE CHEF) in need of help. Her back had given out and she was stuck, lying on the floor of a local church, unable to get back up. THE WIFE and THE NEIGHBOR eventually were able to point me towards the correct church, and I headed over. I found THE CHEF lying on her back on the church sanctuary floor with her feet up on a chair, a few steps from the kitchen she was using to prepare food for an upcoming wedding. A very nice man was talking to her as she applied heat to her back, but she couldn’t move. I stayed with her, mostly trying to make her laugh about the situation. Once her son and wife arrived, I alternated between distracting the son (the church had an AWESOME organ!), helping THE CHEF as she slowly began to move and stretch out , and lending a hand to her wife as she loaded up the food for the catering job. By that evening THE CHEF knew that she wouldn’t be able to do much in terms of loading or unloading the vehicles for the catering jobs, so she reluctantly asked her friends for help. It just so happened that I wasn’t doing anything at 11 AM on a Friday (go figure!), so I headed over to help.
Am I telling you all this so that you can see what a great guy I am? No. Not really. Instead I’m telling you this because it was 15 minutes of effort on a Friday and then another 15 minutes on a Saturday that made a huge difference to them while allowing me to feel good about helping out some people who thought enough of me to allow me to help. It was a chance to pay it forward.
To recap: I was able to see the good side of people last week. First, I saw a group of strangers pull together to take care of people in need, and then I was able to spend a short bit of time helping out some friends. It felt good to see the better side of people. Now I need to figure out if this plays into my bigger picture view going forward, too. While I’m never going to be someone who spends all of his free time doing volunteer work, I should at least figure out if I need to spend more time with others. It runs counter to most of my normal thinking, but challenging my normal thinking is just the kind of thing I need to spend My First Retirement doing.