a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

A Thanksgiving story

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 25th, 2010

It’s Thanksgiving, so as we have every year for the past many years, we’ve made the trip from Takoma Park, MD to Oak Ridge, TN to spend the holiday with my parents.  We got off to a late start, 11am or so, but still managed to arrive by 9pm yesterday evening, after an uneventful drive down I-81.

Several years ago, the drive was quite a bit more memorable.  It was before we got our new car; the old one felt unreliable for long trips, so we decided to rent a car instead, and left the day before Thanksgiving, but later in the day — planning to overnight along the way and arrive early the next morning.

Our initial route takes us along I-66 through Arlington; at the time, that stretch of highway had some exceptionally bad patches, with steel plates covering some of the worse potholes.  We drove over one with a bit of a jarring *kathunk* and kept going, thinking no more of it until a few minutes later, when a flopping sound alerted us to a front flat tire.  So we pulled over to the shoulder, got Maddie situated up on the embankment with her purple blanket — it was a little cold that day — and her stuffed gorilla Georgie, and called the rental company.  They said they’d send a tow truck along in half an hour, so we settled down together to wait and watch the holiday traffic zoom by.

About ten minutes had passed when a car slowed down and eased over onto the shoulder down the road from us.  A couple of men got out and came towards us.  I was a little uneasy and went forward to meet them, but it turned out they were a couple of Latino men (judging by their accents) who were simply worried for us and wanted to see if they could help.  I explained we had a call in to the rental company, and thanked them for their concern.

A few minutes later a second car pulled over.  A man got out and came over to see he could help — and again, he was a Latino fellow, again judging by his accent.  “You sure I can’t take you someplace?  It’s cold for the little girl.” “No but thank you so much, that’s really very nice of you; someone will be along any minute now.”  Convinced, he left.

My wife and I couldn’t get over it.  Of all the hundreds of cars that had passed us by, for the two cars that had stopped to have Hispanic drivers seemed like more than a coincidence.

Then a third car pulled over.

And we weren’t surprised any more when this driver was also Hispanic.

Soon after, the tow truck came and we were on our way again with a replacement car from the rental agency.

I’m thankful today for a lot of things.  We’re  healthy, we’re employed, my parents and my brother and his family are all doing well, Maddie loves her school, and she’s a joy for us every day.

And I’m also thankful for each of those offers of help, made years ago.  I’ve never forgotten them, and I never will.  These days, when I hear people fretting about immigration, Spanish language 800 number options, and the rest of it, I think back to that Thanksgiving weekend, compare those three cars to everyone else that day — and think we should be so lucky to have more like them in this country.  God knows we could use a little kindness around here.

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