My Fiancé and I decided to get away for the weekend, so we took a drive up to West Virginia. Because of the flood, the main road to get to Cowen has been closed for repairs. The drive was pretty uneventful, that is until we got to Valley Head. Brian asked me if I heard that “thumpin” noise. Of course I hadn’t because I was too busy playing Canasta on my phone. I rolled down my window and listened intently. “If the tire was flat, it would be extremely loud” I said, confident that my reasoning was indeed sound. “Babe, I’m pretty sure it is” he said as he slowed the car down and pulled into a Church parking lot that we just happened to be near. There is certainly no shortage of churches in WV. He got out, opened up the flashlight app on my phone and examined the tire. I heard him yell “Baby, you have a spare tire right?” I just cracked up. As if I’d know how to operate a jack even if I did! He just shook his head as he checked the other tires. “What now?” I asked as he got back in the car. “I guess we drive up the road a ways and see if there’s a gas station”.
As we slowly made our way down the road, panic set in. Where were we going to sleep? How much would a tow truck cost? Where was the nearest motel? We didn’t even make it a quarter of a block before we were overwhelmed by the smell of burnt rubber. He pulled the car over again. We were in the middle of nowhere. It was ten o’clock on a Friday night. The neighborhood that we were in was on the main highway, but the street lights were non-existent. Neither one of us had cell service, let alone a Wi-Fi signal. It started to lightly drizzle. At that point the only thing missing was an ax wielding psychopath. Brian sighed, and said “I’m going to go knock on that door and see if they will let me use the phone. I’ll be right back”.
He was gone for what seemed like forever. When he came back, he was followed by a stocky man that had a compressor hose in his hand. Of all the doors that Brian could’ve knocked on, he chose the one house that just happened to have an air compressor in the garage. Nice! Our newfound guardian angel wasn’t the least bit shy, and I rather admired his creative cursing. I just decided to take his word on certain subject matters. “Slicker then Owl shit” was not something that I could comfortably compare with any degree of accuracy, but it made me giggle like a fool. I’d never in my life heard that saying. “That tire ain’t gunna hold air” he said finally out of frustration. Brian asked “That garage we saw on the corner back there, they open on Saturday’s?”
“Sometimes” was the prompt response.
I just sat in the car and put my hand over my mouth, because I couldn’t stop giggling. I absolutely understood that answer. It was a small town mentality in that a store is closed when there’s a family issue or someone has passed. It was open outside of normal business hours when things weren’t going well at home and someone needed to get away, or a family friend asked a favor. That’s just the way it is.
I sat in the car and giggled as Brian and our new found angel spoke and then disappeared back into the shadows of the backyard. When they emerged, I saw our new friend as he rolled a tire and B followed. What I learned later on the drive to find an ATM was more amazing than our “random” choice of house. The family had just moved in less than six months prior. His wife’s mother was sick, and they moved so that they could take care of her. His wife just so happened upon a set of tires for sale a week before our trip. She bought them from a coworker thinking that they would fit her vehicle. It turned out they were completely the wrong size. They just so happened to fit my foreign car. WV is truly an “American made” state. Trust me, it’s Ford and Chevy all the way.
The fact that they had tires that fit a foreign car frankly is simply unbelievable. He just so happened to have not only an air compressor, but also a “valve stem remover” in his garage as well. I’d never heard of such a magical item, but apparently they are the owl feathers behind a mechanic’s wand. The fact that this family was not only willing to help two strangers at 10 pm on a Friday night; but did so knowing neither of us had cash to pay him upfront was simply unheard of! He took us at our word that we would drive to the nearby ATM, withdrawal cash, & come back to “square up”.
I thought about that the entire way to the gas station. It takes a lot for me to be speechless, and this was one of those times. Words of gratitude seemed just so inadequate and small. It was so funny. “How can one even begin to quantify setting a price for kindness?” I thought as I hit that “withdrawal cash from checking button”. It didn’t seem nearly enough. We drove back to his house, pulled up to the driveway, got out and made our way to the garage. We found our new friend puttering around an old truck. I handed him that roll of cash and his face lit up. We got not only gratitude, but also a new fishin’ spot. According to Brian, good “fishin’ holes” are only passed down on a fisherman’s deathbed. It’s done in front of only one witness who has to swear on a stack of bibles not the reveal the locations or risk the penalty of “eternal burnin’ britches”. That’s just one of the many reasons I don’t fish; that and worms are just gross.
That is the America that I believed in so tremendously as I celebrated today with close friends. What is memorial day? It’s a respectful remembrance of those who gave his or her very life to protect the idea that all men are created equal. It is a solemn prayer that despite differences, we will absolutely open our doors and help our neighbors. We will be neither the bully, nor will we be bullied. Here’s the catch; the America that I believe in does so with grace, honor, integrity, humility and without an expectation that kindness is due in return. If we happen upon an extraordinary kindness it should be celebrated. It should be cherished, and written about with fondness and wonder. God bless our America, and our soldiers who gave the ultimate act of extraordinary kindness; serving others without a thought of themselves.