Monday, February 20, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

I knew last Monday was going to be a tough day - the son of a friend of mine was to be buried, a life snuffed out far too soon. I had tons of work to do for Carswell because I had booked off Tuesday as a vacation day. I had to run in to Calgary after work to get the last fresh groceries for our Valentine's celebration in the TH. And I had to be back by 7 p.m. as I wanted to hear my Dad's talk entitled "How Random Acts of Kindness Enhance Health," a topic he had been asked to address with the local Good Health club.

Driving to the city was just beautiful. The sky was clear and the roads were dry. When I reached Costco a few flakes had started to drift indecisively down.

When I left Costco my car was covered in snow. I made my way to Superstore and rushed through it as quickly as I could. But still my car was weighted by the amount of snow that had fallen in the short time I was shopping.

As I loaded the groceries into Josephine's trunk and back seat the snow swirled from the sky and, getting caught on the wind, drummed into my eyes and tangled with my hair.

I noticed as I got onto the highway which takes me the first part of the way home that my engine light flashed on briefly. But it was really too late to turn back to Calgary at this point, not to mention no way to get back across the divided highway from where I was; and if the snow were to get worse, I reasoned, I could be stuck with a car load of groceries and people lined up outside the TH!

However, 12 kms onto Hwy 72, my dashboard lights gently but unequivocally faded into blackness. Josephine is nothing if not a lady! My signal lights didn't signal, and my hazard lights didn't turn on. My headlights were getting dimmer and I managed to slide over to the side of the road - in a valley - before the engine cut out.

The valley is important because as I tried to dial AMA, I discovered that there was no cell phone reception in this particular valley. I still had my headlights, though, so I flashed them on and off as a car approached me, hoping that someone would stop.

No one did. 

I wondered if I was going to have to walk to a nearby Hutterite colony. I decided the next vehicle would be the last one at which I flashed my lights and I prayed that God would get it to stop.

And ... it stopped! Out got the driver and walked across the road, the blistering tiny needles of icy snow flicking his face. "What's the trouble?" he asked. I told him. "I've got jumper cables. Let's try to charge the battery ..." he said and with that he turned his truck around and now I could see that the vehicle was full of people. He gave me his cell phone to try to dial AMA, but he too had no reception. A girl jumped out from the back seat of the truck to help him, and the lady in the front seat beckoned me back to the truck and told me to climb in out of the cold and we would try their cell phones until something worked.

I had hit the mother-daughterlode of helpfulness! The lady in the front seat was Sharon, wife of Kevin who was at that moment trying to charge my battery. They had been in Beiseker with their daughter Meghan and three of her friends as the girls participated in a basketball tournament (not good results, sadly ...!). And they were on their way home to Cochrane.

Each one of them except for Sharon had her cell phone with her. And one cell phone actually managed to pick up a faint signal, in about a 10-square-inch window of receptivity in the dead centre of the truck's console! She let me use it, and in a few minutes I got to an AMA agent who quickly took down details. The connection kept getting dropped, but each agent I talked to built on the notes of the previous one until all details were recorded and the AMA contractor out of Beiseker could find me and Josephine on the side of the road. It would be about an hour and a half before they could reach me, though, as they were actually in Three Hills on another call ...

That's when Kevin intervened. "We're not leaving you on the side of the road," he decreed. "Tell them that you'll meet them in Beiseker - we'll drive you back."

I tried to protest that it was too much, that they had already done enough, that the round trip would add 44 extra kilometres to their already long drive for the evening. Sharon added her voice to Kevin's: "You'll freeze out here. It's not a bad drive. The girls can call their parents and let them know we're going to be late. We're happy to do this for you."

The four girls sardined themselves into the back seat and I rode in utter comfort and warmth with Sharon and Kevin in the front seat. They made me feel like I was one of their friends, that this was just a little drive around the block on a sunny day. We talked and laughed the whole way back to the Esso gas station in Beiseker, where I had arranged to meet the AMA driver. And when we arrived they tumbled out of the truck and into the gas station to make sure I was going to be okay. 

Kevin gave me his card. "Be sure you call us when you get home," he said. 

"It'll be late," I tried to protest again. "What about if I text you so that I don't disturb you?"

Silly me - I should have known that this would be unacceptable to these people with the enormous hearts. "It won't be too late," assured Sharon. "We just want to know you're safe. Call us."

And with that and a hug they vanished back into the truck and the night closed around them.

The kind-hearted cashier at the Esso station informed me that the cafe was closed. "But you're going to have a bit of a wait for AMA; why don't you just go on in there and sit down and be comfortable?" I took my hot chocolate and found a booth. I asked if they sold magazines and the answer was no. However, she got me a copy of the newspaper to read, and she herself came and kept me company in between customers. 

We talked about music and tattoos and hopes for the future; and before I had a chance to start worrying about the lettuce freezing in Josephine's trunk, there was a woman's voice calling out, "Is there a Karyn here?"

An hour had passed already! The cashier and I said our goodbyes and I hopped into the truck with Jean, who introduced me to her husband Frank. My trip would be their third call for Three Hills that evening ...

We headed into the snow and down the road to pick up Josephine. While Frank loaded her up, Jean and I got acquainted. I discovered that she and Frank own a little sandwich counter and pie shop in Beiseker, so we immediately had much in common! The miles to Three Hills disappeared as we compared notes. 

They drove me right to Richard Automotive in Three Hills. There I was met by my wonderful sister BA, whom I had called to give the lowdown on my evening. She helped me transfer the groceries from Josephine to her car and then we drove to the TH, followed by Frank and Jean - it was now so late and I wanted to make them a hot drink for the long drive home.

BA and Frank unloaded everything and I steamed milk and drew espresso shots. Dad showed up to make sure everything was okay. I called Kevin and Sharon - and got them live, of course; no voicemail message-leaving for them!

It was now well past 11 p.m. I had missed Dad's talk. But I realized that I didn't need to hear it, because I had lived it on this haphazard, wonderful evening. Everywhere I turned I had encountered people - complete strangers with the exception of BA - who couldn't do enough to help out someone who was in need, and who gave to me with no expectation of getting anything back in return.

Thank you, Kevin and Sharon, beautiful cashier with the intriguing tattoos, Jean and Frank, BA. It might seem like random acts of kindness when each segment is taken separately; all put together, it was an evening of overwhelming care and compassion bestowed on me, and it gave me the boost I needed to be able to care for the 36 people who would come to Nilgiris' Valentine's evening less than 24 hours later!


  1. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (overflowing me right now, having read this!) ... I guess it's all fitting for a prelude to Valentine's Day, and just shows the celebration is not about Cupid either! This was a most beautiful post and filled my heart with hope and my eyes with tears and my face with smiles! Thank you! LOVE you!xo

  2. You are someone who is always giving, giving, giving and I wonder if the Lord put you in a situation where you HAVE to accept the help and generosity of others. It does my heart good to hear you being served and cared for for a change! :)

  3. goodness - the tears are flowing. so very beautiful.


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