One Saturday not too long ago my little sister was heading to our parents’ home from school, about a three hour drive. She was in the left lane of a moderately busy divided highway, about 20 minutes from the college, when she felt the car beginning to pull to the right. And, oddly, the right front corner seemed to be getting lower. It didn’t take her long to realize she obviously had a tire going flat. She was also obviously lucky it didn’t just “blow out,” which would have been a lot more difficult for her to recover from. She immediately let off the gas and came to a stop on the left shoulder.
She had also noticed a car beside her in the right lane (where she should have been anyway, but don’t start me down that “road”) and this car was slowing down right along with her and pulled off on the right shoulder.
As soon as the other car stopped an older man got out, trotted across the highway and told her that as he was passing her (in the right lane!) he saw smoke coming from the tire and slowed down to pace her to see what was happening. He was relieved to realize that it was just the tire going flat and there wasn’t something else causing the smoke. He then said he’d be happy to help her out and asked if she had a spare in the car.
She wasn’t sure but opened the trunk to check. After moving around bags of clothes and a few boxes of who-knows-what, they uncovered the spare tire compartment. After he pulled the tire out and dropped it on the ground they realized it was – of course – flat.
Fortunately this kind Samaritan had a small air compressor in his trunk. My sister was quite incredulous. I think she actually kind of insulted him by asking why in the world he would keep a tire air compressor in his car! (Needless to say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, sis!)
Anyway, he got her spare tire pumped up and put it on the car. In the process he showed her how to set up and operate the jack, how to jump on the tire iron to break the lug nuts loose, how to mount the tire and reinstall the lug nuts and even how to roughly gauge how tight they were.
Now, I have to admit something. In case you’re wondering how I know this much detail about this encounter, it’s because I was that man that stopped to help. And of course it wasn’t my sister. But – it could have been yours. And know that I’m not relaying this story to brag, or to look for accolades, but I do have a point to make.
What I did was spend a measly 20 or 25 minutes of my time helping someone else. It was no big deal to me – I had the time, I had the tools. But to this young girl, who really was leaving school one Saturday morning on a three hour drive home, what I did to help her may have been monumental.
One, her spare tire was flat. Two, she didn’t know how to change the tire in any case. And if I remember correctly she didn’t have any roadside assistance membership, like AAA. And there is, sadly, the risk of what *could* have happened to her if the “wrong” person had come by and stopped.
Having worked on cars for a living for 25 years, I also had some knowledge of her car, tire-changing and the like. I spoke with her father on her cell phone, reassured him she was okay and I could get her back on the road (and also pointed out a few other things on the car that could also benefit from some attention.)
But I will brag on one thing. When I see someone in distress, it distresses me. And I want to help. How do I help? Well, this incident isn’t the first time I’ve stopped to help someone change a tire. I also volunteer time at Haven House Services in downtown Raleigh. And I help Orange County Literacy Council with their computers sometimes. And I give money to our cause through our workplace giving program.
It’s easy. And I have the tools. And it just doesn’t take that much time away from my “oh-so-[not]-busy” life.
For you, donating money or time could prove to be life-saving to someone. Over 203,000 people in Durham, Orange, Johnston and Wake counties live below poverty level. I can guarantee you not one of these people asked for their “tire to go flat.”
You have the tools to help. Whether you donate money to United Way, or donate your time to a volunteer activity, or even just advocate for people – families – that need help, you will put those tools to good use.
Go to http://www.unitedwaytriangle.org, and use those tools.
Photo from onlinecollegecourses.com