I was the second or third car in line at a red light. The intersection was a very busy one with four lanes of through traffic, turning lanes, freeway on and off ramps and a often used railroad track. Traffic was particularly heavy and lines stretched long behind the changing lights. The light in my lane turned green; and this is when tragedy decided to strike.
A man was driving an old, rusty, yellow station wagon. There were four small children in the back seats. He looked a respectable man, but obviously poor. He pressed on the gas at the change of lights and his car bolted, then sputtered, then jerked to a stop. Having driven old cars, I could feel his frustration and his embarrassment. Oh, somebody please help him, I pleaded silently.
Then a most beautiful thing happened. At the head of four of the stopped lanes of traffic sat shiny, new trucks. How they synchronized to be there at the same moment, paint waxed and chrome lug nuts shining, I'll never know. But there they were. At the wheel of each gleaming truck sat a man--a good man. I know they were good men because before the dad behind the wheel of the broken-down vehicle could even get out of his car, these four men jumped out of their cars. It wasn't that one guy got out and the others thought, Well, I guess I should go help, too. No, it was more instinctive than that. It was automatic. Over they ran, dodging traffic, and helped the disable car to the side of the road.
As I drove past, I wondered if each of the Good Samaritans had once been the poor dad in the crappy car just trying to get by. How many years of hard work did it take to finally be seated behind the wheel of their fancy truck? Had they experienced downsizing or did they work full time while struggling to earn a degree? Did their health insurance company go bankrupt in time for them to get sick? Maybe they got a new truck on their 16th birthday and updated every year. Maybe, but I doubt it.
I was reminded of this experience today as I watched a dance team performing at competition.
Everything started out okay for this group of high school aged girls, but about a third of the way through their routine, tragedy struck. Their CD began to skip. It wasn't a quick skip then get back to the song, it was a stuttering, repetitive, persistent skip. The girls shied a moment and looked at each other quickly, but tried to soldier on.
Then a most beautiful thing happened. The crowd began to cheer. A few whooped, someone whistled. The momentum picked up as the audience shouted, clapped, and otherwise encouraged the girls. They kept going while the music was playing it's own happy game. The dancers beamed as they danced the routine they knew by heart--with or without Aretha's voice paving the way.
The song ended and they jumped into each other's arms. The crowd had bolstered the courage of the feeble hearted and they did it.
The world is full of nasty, wicked people. They do horrible and ugly things, but I believe that there is still more good. People are kind, they are generous, they are selfless, and they are loving. I am sometimes criticised for my belief in people (I believed Bill Clinton and the balloon boy's family, for instance), but I would rather be caught believing in the good in people than finding myself doubtful and distrustful. There is so much joy found in hope!
Doing good is a pleasure,
a joy beyond measure,
a blessing of duty and love.
~ Will L. Thompson