I saw something the other day on Facebook, a story in which people talked about the kindest thing a stranger had ever done for them. It made me remember what is probably the kindest thing a stranger ever did for me.
I was a young, new mother. My oldest child was only an infant or a toddler at the time – somewhere between nine months and eighteen months old. I was still married to my ex-husband at the time, and we only had one vehicle. He worked, and I stayed home with my son.
My son was sick. I didn’t know what was wrong with him yet, but we had decided that I would drive my ex to work so I could have the car and take the baby to the doctor to find out. I took him to work, then went back home to wait until the doctor’s office opened. But when they did, and I called, they couldn’t see him that day. They recommended I take him to a walk-in urgent care clinic to be seen.
We lived in a small town outside a moderately sized town, so I had to drive about twenty miles to get to the nearest urgent care. About halfway there, I heard that telltale boom and then the “thump, thump, thump” of a flat tire. I pulled over, and sure enough, the back passenger side tire was flat.
We didn’t have extra money for AAA, much less a spare tire. I wasn’t even entirely sure how we were going to pay for the urgent care visit. I sat on the side of the road, unsure what to do. I knew how to change a tire, but I didn’t want to jack up the car with my son in it, nor did I want to take his carseat out and put it on the side of the road while I changed the tire. It just didn’t seem safe. I had no idea what to do, and I just sat there and cried. I couldn’t call my husband, or my dad, or anyone else, because I didn’t even have a cell phone – another thing we couldn’t afford.
I’d finally made up my mind to get my son and carry him to the nearest house and ask to use their phone to call my dad (my ex wasn’t reachable at work). As I got out of the car, this really nice, shiny black car pulled over behind me. An older blonde got out, dressed in a white silk blouse and black pants, wearing high heels and expensive jewelry.
“What’s wrong?” she asked me.
“I have a flat tire, and my baby’s in the car. I can’t jack the car up with him in it, but I don’t want to take him out either and put him on the side of the road. I have no cell phone to call anyone, and I don’t know what to do!” I wailed.
“Okay, let’s calm down and take a breath,” she said to me. “I have a cell phone, so is there someone you can call?”
I told her I could call my dad, and she gave me her phone. I called him, and though he couldn’t come help me, he did have AAA. He said he’d call them and have someone out there soon.
“Just tell the guy when he gets there that I had to leave to get to work. It’ll be fine. He won’t know I was never there,” he told me when I said that he had to be there for me to use his AAA.
I gave the woman back her phone and thanked her for stopping and offering me her phone.
“Is he on his way?” she asked me.
“No, but he called AAA. Someone will be here soon.”
“Okay. Do you guys want to sit in my car while we wait?”
“Oh, no. You should go. We’ll be fine,” I told her.
“No. I’m not leaving you and a baby alone on the side of the road,” she insisted.
So I got my son out to go sit in her car. She asked me where I was going, and I explained about my son being sick as I pulled him out of his carseat.
“Well, I’m a doctor, so let me take a look at him.”
Within just a few minutes, she’d looked him over, diagnosed him, and wrote me a prescription for the medication that would make him better. The tow truck arrived a short time later, and she stayed with me while the driver changed my flat tire. Once the tow truck was gone and my son was strapped into his seat again, she gave me a hug.
“I was once in your shoes. You’re going to be fine,” she said to me.
And we were. I got my son’s prescription filled, and though we didn’t have a lot of money, since I didn’t have to pay for the urgent care clinic, I was able to make it work. My son was feeling better by later that day, and by the next day, he was back pretty much to his normal self.
I don’t remember that doctor’s name now. Nor do I remember what my son was diagnosed with, or what she prescribed, or even how much the medication actually cost. But I do remember that the complete stranger stopped and helped a stressed out mother who felt like she was failing as a mother at that moment. While I know today that I would have figured it out on my own, and my son still would have been fine and I wasn’t a failure as a mother, I still remember how she not only helped me with my actual problems, but made me feel better about what I was doing.
What’s the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for you? If you’ve never had a stranger do something kind for you, then what’s the kindest thing anyone has done for you?