I was late, rushing home from a local store after doing a little Christmas shopping, when I stashed my bags in the back of my clunky minivan and pulled into traffic. Ahead, an SUV was turning in the same direction I was at a four-way intersection. As the vehicle pulled down the brick-lined street, I noticed how its right rear tire smooshed against the pavement like a puddle.
Hoping to get the driver’s attention, I flashed my van’s lights and beeped the horn. Then I rolled down my window and pointed toward the back of the other driver’s car. But the woman behind the wheel either didn’t notice or wondered what was wrong with the lady wildly waving out the window and drove off.
Worried that she’d damage the rim of her tire or get stranded somewhere, I sped out of town after her, honking – louder and longer – while continuing to wave out the window. All the while, the driver kept going. A few minutes later, I gave up. Following distantly behind, I watched as she drove 55 miles per hour down a lonely stretch of road through the trees while her flat tire flapped tiredly beneath her.
To be honest, it made me angry. What if she caused an accident? Or injured someone? Did she not feel the thunk-thunk-thunk of the tire?
Several minutes later, I was relieved when the vehicle slowed and flashed its turn signal. As the SUV pulled into the parking lot of a local elementary school, I pulled my van in beside her and rolled down my window. The woman looked startled and rolled down her own window, seeming to see me for the first time.
“Your back tire’s completely flat,” I said, with a note of triumph, pleased at having finally gotten her attention.
A look of despair darkened her face, and her shoulders sagged. “You wouldn’t believe the trouble this car has given me,” she said, getting out of her vehicle to meet her young son.
As she helped her son into the back seat, I muttered something about how sorry I was. Then I felt a nudge. Give her what you have. I don’t usually carry around much cash, but that day I had a little on me. Wondering what to say, I pulled several bills out of my purse and opened my door. Then I walked around my vehicle and held the money toward her.
“I know it’s hard, especially around Christmas,” I said. “But I also know that God loves you, so I’d like to share a little of what he’s given me.”
It really wasn’t much, but as I handed her the money, the woman’s eyes widened in wonder. “Can I hug you?” she asked.
There, between our two dingy vehicles, we hugged in the school parking lot as her young son looked on. Later, as I shared this story with my husband, I realized how often I go through life flashing my lights and honking my horn at someone who is in trouble. But how much better to simply share what I have. Perhaps that is one reason why we are here, to make someone else’s journey a little easier.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Christmas Cradle and four other books celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith.