The Kindness of Strangers

I ran out of gas- completely out of gas- for the first time in my life yesterday. I was on my way to a gas station, as my empty light had been on for 16 miles, when my car sputtered and slowed and stopped responding. I wrestled the now un-powered steering wheel and slid into a spot on the side of the road. Hmmmm... Probably not going to make my 4:00 appointment, I calculated. Funny how everything can change in just a moment. Thankfully I was not on the freeway when it happened. Thankfully, I was in a pretty safe neighborhood when it happened. Thankfully, I wasn't too far from a gas station. I won't even talk about why I find it necessary to push my luck and not just pull over at the first station as soon as my tank is low. But, I can tell you it won't happen again. I was on South Main Street in Santa Monica. The closest gas station was about a mile away. For some reason it was about 85 degrees yesterday afternoon, and as I ran down the road, sweat dripping, I kept picturing a nice stranger who would drive me and my shiny (and heavy) new gas can back to my car. I got to the station, pulled a red plastic jug off of the shelf, and walked up to the grungy counter. As the guy behind the counter was giving me some pointers on using the can (a LOT more complicated than it should be- in my opinion) the kid standing behind me overheard and asked if I had run out of gas. Yes, I said. First time ever. It's really just so Amateur? He asked. Yes. Exactly. Amateur. Oh, it can happen to any of us, he said. Where are you parked? Main Street. I can take you to your car- it's on my way. Cool. That's so nice. I felt fine getting in this stranger, Cameron's car- partly because I had wished for him, and partly because he just had a nice energy about him. We drove into the afternoon sun and he told me about how a friend had done him a favor earlier in the day and he was just passing it on. I gave him a CD when we got to my car, thanked him, and he drove off. Then I tried to get the new gas in my tank. Unfortunately, the tips that the guy at the station had given me were very wrong. I guess it was pretty obvious that I was struggling, because when I looked up there was a girl standing on the sidewalk asking me if I needed help. Thank you so much. Yeah, I think I do need help, but have you ever done this before? She looked like she was just coming home from school. She had a cute outfit on. Well, let's try to figure it out, she said. She helped me decipher the cryptic instructions that had come with the can, and gave me moral support as I held up the can and listened to the slow glug, glug- gas tank accepting it's precious gallon and a half of fuel. I gave Ashley a CD too. As I got into my car and drove on to PCH, I couldn't help but feel grateful that I had run out of gas. The simple kindness of these two strangers had restored my faith in our future as humans on this planet. Seriously. Even when all of the horrible news of the world is coming in over the airwaves, there is kindness and compassion breaking out everywhere. Here it is, right in front of us, when we (are forced to) slow down and look.

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