The other day I was looking through my address book, and there I found the names and address of a couple who live on Arkansas Highway 16. Written beside their address is my note: “The couple who helped me when I wrecked my car.”
I was transported to that hot summer of 1993 when my daughter and I were traveling east from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to the small town of Deer to participate in an archaeological dig. The narrow, two-lane blacktop had just been misted with one of those light, sun-shiny rains, the kind of rain that doesn’t do much for the garden or the field but that puts sparkle on the grass, rainbows in the sky, and slick on the road. You guessed it: I hit a curve going too fast, overcorrected, and slid across the highway onto the overgrown shoulder of the oncoming lane. There, we skidded along for a while, managing to pull off the car’s rear bumper and fill the front seat with countless grains of tall, roadside grass seeds that were whipped off their stalks into my open window.
We ended up at the foot of a high bank on top of which was this couple’s home and shop. They walked down to survey the damage, and the man set to work immediately. The woman offered comfort and calming words. Within 30 minutes, my daughter and I were on the road again with the bumper secured to the top of the car and grass seeds swirling up from the floorboard and falling out of my hair.
That couple’s help to us, people they had never met and would never see again, at least, not so far, is what makes things work in our world. If we can’t give help to someone who needs it, we are crippled by our selfishness. Our country has made a habit of helping other countries because we are a people who have been helped and who know how to be helpful. It is easy in today’s madcap world to forget about making helpfulness a goal, but I know that when I do so, almost everything else seems to fall into place. Being helpful brings me sanity and humility. Being helpful allows me to listen and be in and of the moment. Being helpful brings calm and reason. Being helpful, in the right way, can circumvent or stall or even dissipate most bad things. Being helpful is an action and an attitude, and this, I believe.
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