My encounters involve flat tires.
The first, when I was in high school, happened as my family made the long drive from East Texas to Cincinnati for Christmas. The weather was miserable—cold and icy. My dad handled the wheel-gripping drive while the sun set. In the middle of a long bridge, our tire blew out, and we limped our way to the end. This was our first minivan—Dad had never changed the tire on a vehicle this big, nor did he even know where the jack was. We didn’t have a cell phone or AAA, and we were hundreds of miles from our destination.
As we got of the car to investigate the damage, an identical minivan pulled up behind us. The driver got out, already rolling up his sleeves. Having changed the tire on his vehicle before, he knew where our jack was and knew what to do. In no time, he changed our tire, and we were on our way.
The next tire incident occurred during medical school. My tire blew as I crossed a bridge on the way to the St. Louis VA at 5:30 on a pitch-black winter morning. I had a cell phone this time, but no AAA and no one to call. I was apprehensive about attempting to change the tire myself or sitting alone hoping for help, as I was not in the greatest part of town.
No sooner had I pulled over than a tow truck pulled up behind me—an auto mechanic, on his way to work. He made quick work of changing my tire, accepted nothing but thanks, and was on his way.
These gestures may seem small, but at those moments, they meant everything. I think of those strangers who were kind enough to stop as our guardian angels.
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