“Mommy, I have to go potty!” my son hollered from the backseat. You’ve got to be kidding me, rolled around in my mind, never making it to my lips. We had just stopped fifteen miles back, and we were only two hours into our six-hour trip. “Are you sure you have to go?” I asked, hoping the reality was less about needing to potty and more about wanting freedom from his car seat. “Well…” he hesitated, “I might can wait, Mommy.”
We were traveling seventy miles per hour on the interstate, and a rest area sign was approaching quickly. To say that I didn’t want to stop again is an understatement of epic proportions; however, he is only two, so that settled the matter. At the last possible moment, I turned onto the ramp, with the refrain we will never get there, playing in my mind. As the car slowed, I heard a loud pop. Looking into the rearview mirror and seeing nothing, I continued, pulling into one of a few spots left that offered a bit of shade from the oppressive heat.
As I sat fumbling for something in my bag, a motion outside my window drew my attention. A man, standing a few feet from the car, pointed toward my back tire and mouthed the words, “Your tire is slack.” For the second time in less than sixty seconds, you’ve got to be kidding me, flew into my mind! As the man hopped on his motorcycle and sped away, I opened my car door and leaned out hoping he was wrong.
He was wrong. The tire was not slack. . . it was flat. I’m talking rim sitting on the ground, flat!
Independence is something I value; however, sitting at that rest stop with a flat tire and two small children strapped in their car seats made me a little anxious. Contemplating my options, I got out of the car because I still had a son that needed to potty, and noticed a man headed our direction from across the parking lot. He was thirtyish, wore a beard, cargo shorts, a tee-shirt, and had what appeared to be a large tooth of unknown origin tethered to a piece of leather dangling from his neck. “Can I change that for you?” he asked.
For someone who could clearly use some help, I was hesitant. From an early age, I was taught to be cautious with strangers. That lesson stuck and through the years, little by little, I’ve become more and more wary of people. I’m not proud of this fact. Not at all. While I do think it’s prudent to be cautious, I’m ashamed that sometimes I doubt human goodness.
Standing by the car in the heat of the day, my babies craning their necks to see what was happening, I looked into this man’s eyes and saw only kindness there. However, I still found myself wondering if I could trust him. My mind quickly surveyed the scene. It was broad daylight, and the rest area was crowded. A lot of families were getting in and out of vehicles. By this time he was standing just a few feet away, and his words broke through the mental assessment going on in my mind. “I really don’t mind. It will only take me a few minutes,” he said again.
“If you’re sure you don’t mind, I would appreciate it,” I said, and with that, he went to work. It didn’t take him very long, but it was hot, and he was sweating by the time he’d finished. He had to lie down underneath my car to reach my spare, so he was now dirty as well.
Once finished, he warned me to go slow, because these “doughnut” spares were not meant for long distances or high speeds. I thanked him profusely and asked twice if I could please pay him. He declined both times but said this, “One day it could be my wife and children out here on the road with a flat tire. I hope someone would be willing to stop and help them.”
I got back in the car, and my eyes felt misty and my throat a little tight. Despite the negativity, we see each day; there is still such goodness and kindness in the world, isn’t there? Our news feeds are constantly filled with horror: a gunman opening fire on innocent people, cars swerving intentionally onto crowded sidewalks, some people doing their best to inflict pain, and spread evil far and wide.
And yet, goodness remains.
Goodness remains when we help that mom with small children change the flat tire.
Goodness remains when we visit that gentleman in the nursing home who sits alone.
Goodness remains when we take a blanket and a smile to that person who’s hooked up to plastic tubes while the chemo drips slowly into her veins.
Goodness remains when we go to church and welcome the visitor into our fellowship, and ask that she sit with us.
Goodness remains when we share a cup of cold water and a bag of groceries with someone in need.
Goodness remains anytime we stop long enough to notice another person in need and care enough to act on their behalf.
The stranger didn’t have to help me that day. He could have easily looked away as many others did. After all, he had places to go himself; an agenda of his own. But instead, he chose compassion, and it made all the difference for my family. His parting words filled my thoughts for the rest of my journey and continue with me now. “If it were my wife and kids, I hope someone would stop for them.”
Who will you stop for today? Who will I take the time to help?
Ultimately, goodness still remains in the world each time we choose compassion over fear, faith over doubt, service over selfishness, and love over hate. And if it will continue, it’s up to you and me to make it so.