One decade ago, work related injuries presented me with a catch-22. EITHER opt for the same surgery which had TWICE repaired / TWICE failed me and return to work (to perhaps even get re-injured) OR skip the surgery and retire. Opting for the latter, meant living with a disability and limited retirement funds. I already knew staying attuned to my body’s oft uncomfortable and unpredictable, early warning signs would be necessary to avoid potentially life jeopardizing consequences. I also knew that retiring too soon would require budgetary cuts. Of course, my now knowing that even frugal living has been unable to fully stanch the hemorrhaging red ink… as of late… I’ve been reevaluating what… once-upon-a-time… I had deemed life’s necessities.
Ergo, when my nearly 20 year-old-car failed to start this past May, rather than seeking immediate repairs, I opted to conduct a one-month long, feasibility study to determine if permanently forsaking car ownership could become a viable cost-cutting strategy. Since, I had only been driving to the supermarket and walking to all of my other destinations, anyway, I knew I was physically fit enough to also “hoof” the 2 mi / 3.25 km round trips required to keep my provisions properly stocked. As I got more fully on board with my experiment, that one month soon extended into nearly six… that added time allowing me to experience five totally unexpected events… on five different occasions. It was during those moments where I discovered my feasibility study was also affording me a glimpse into a side of human nature I didn’t even think existed anymore.
Part 2 now begins with all that had transpired…
Event #1 (Early May)… Upon my casually mentioning to the supermarket cashier that I wasn’t driving… and asking if she could more evenly distribute my groceries’ weight between my two shopping bags, she causally mentioned that it’d be OK if I wheeled my purchase home in one of their shopping carts! Not feeling comfortable with doing something that could so easily be misconstrued as theft, I politely declined.
Event #2 (Mid July)… My next-door neighbor, spotting me homeward bound, pulled her car over to offer me a ride. She also mentioned her willingness to drive me to the store anytime I needed. But, again I was having second thoughts. You see, both her husband and she are 95-years-olds and with him not being in the best of health, I knew he needed her help far more than I did.
Event #3: (Mid August)… During a chat with this same neighbor I mentioned how I’d been reducing the weight of my groceries by replacing milk with calcium and vitamin D fortified OJ (i.e., instead of buying both products). Within a few days, she knocked on my door to deliver a grocery bag containing a half-gallon of milk. I expressed my gratitude but also reminded that she shouldn’t be spending their limited funds on me. Even so, she wouldn’t allow me to pay her back.
Event #4 (Late August)… While I had slept, my left knee had stiffened up. YIKES! Since I could barely get around my own home, how could I ever, possibly, make it to the store? How would my knee handle the extra weight of my grocery bags? Also problematic, my dysfunctional car meant driving ISO medical attention wouldn’t even be possible. Well, since unforeseen injury was also a weighty factor to consider during my experiment, I decided to limp my way to the store, anyway. True, it had taken me twice as long, but I did arrive / survive. However, with the return leg of my journey barely underway, I had to set my bags down on the sidewalk to determine if redistributing the weight might help.
That’s when I heard the approaching from behind, concerned yet friendly sounding voice of a complete stranger. She was offering to help me carry my bags home. Upon my informing her of the long distance involved, she even offered to drive me to my destination. However, since we had just met, it was quite understandable for her to (eventually) have (unvoiced) second thoughts. That’s when she went back inside her condo and wheeled out a (fold-able) grocery cart, which could easily haul four shopping bags. She told me that since she no longer needed it, the cart was mine to keep. Even so, I offered to pay for it… but she’d only accept my gratitude. While wheeling my groceries home I found my eyes occasionally welling up a bit each time I thought about how someone, who I had never even met, had cared about my well-being.
Event #5 (Mid October)… Just last Thursday, with fall’s chill in the air, with my knee now feeling no pain, I was once again headed to the supermarket. That’s when a fortuitous chain reaction got set into motion. A woman walking her leash-less, barking-at-me dog, prompted me to cross the street… to enter a driveway where a parked truck was partially blocking my way. While veering around it, right before my very eyes, a familiar logo painted on the vehicle’s door was staring right back at me… a reputable towing/road service business’ sign… no less! I greeted the mechanic who was busily changing a flat tire. I then asked him how much he would charge for a jump start… adding that I lived in the vicinity. With a grin he said, since he was already in the neighborhood, he’d do it for free!
About a half hour later, his jumper box had roared my car back to life. I still offered to pay, but he told me that to promote good public relations, he oft provides this service, pro bono. Of course, the news wasn’t all good. His warning that my ancient, corroded battery might not hold the charge did prove true… which required his return the next morning. Once again, he waved off my reopened wallet. The best part of this was how the second jump allowed me to drive to the dealership to keep my repair appointment. Two hours later, with a new battery and fresh oil, coolant and brake fluid all rejuvenating my vehicle, my experiment had come to an end. And it really did feel good to finally be back on the road!
To now tie up a few loose ends… In the months ahead, there’ll be kindnesses to extend and return to all who had been there for me.  Regrettably, retail being what it is, I may never see that friendly cashier again.  As I’ve done in the past, I will find ways to make life easier for my next-door neighbors.  Since its unlikely that I’ll be needing that grocery hauler any longer, I’ll soon be returning it to my benefactor. With her condo being located along the beaten path leading from the grocery store, it’s entirely possible that… someday… she’ll see some other person limping along through life who’ll need it just as much as I had.  As for the mechanic… since I’ve already entered his business phone number into my cell’s directory that’ll mean that any time anyone ever needs road service and asks me who to call, with a quick flip of my flip phone, I’ll be able to instantly recommend him.
What I learned… My car’s engine not turning over this past May… my stiffened knee this past August… even needing to dodge a leash-less barking dog this October… may’ve all slowed my forward momentum… BUT… oh… the lovely path of discovery these events had put me on! Had I immediately taken my car in for repairs, I’d have never experienced any of those five events. Most assuredly, I do treasure life’s mind and eye opening, tears welling, oh wow moments. My nearly one-half-year long, on foot journey through life has provided me an invaluable lesson… has worked wonders in curing my cynicism. I now know… from firsthand experience… that during times of adversity, kindly souls are still willing to extend helping hands to those in need. My having encountered four people, who could’ve so easily looked the other way… yet so freely chose not to… has restored my faith in humanity. Just think about it. If in such a short span of time I could cross paths with four of humanity’s finest, this certainly tells me there have got to be countless others out there who’d do the same.