Today, our car battery died. More specifically, it died on three separate occasions — all within the course of an hour. The first time it went down for the count was, fortunately (or so I thought), at a gas station. We had just filled up our tank and were preparing to leave when the car wouldn’t start. It was the middle of the afternoon and there were plenty of people around so, even though we didn’t have jumper cables, I thought we’d be recharged and ready to leave in no time. Apparently, I was wrong.

First, I approached the employees and asked if they had jumper cables. They informed me that they did not, which seemed strange to me, but I figured there were plenty of other people there so it wouldn’t be a problem. After being told by three or four people that, sorry, they didn’t have cables I ran across the way to the drug store to pick up a set of cables. Now that we have our own cables, I thought, things would be much easier. Wrong again.

I ran back and started asking people for help: Sorry to bother you, but we’re stranded here at the gas station. Our car is right over there and I have these cables in my hand. Could you give us a jump? About four or five people said no (and a couple of others got into their cars and left as quickly as they could when they saw me walking around the gas station) when I approached a man in a Mercedes. When I asked for help, instead of replying with a simple “no” he scoffed and said, “Not with this car.” It’s not just that the effort of popping the hood and turning the key to start the engine is just too much to ask; it’s the very thought of contaminating his luxury import with my unworthy family sedan. I don’t even have my Junky Car Club sticker on my car — I guess he just has extrasensory perception about these kinds of things.

Eventually, one of the employees came out and gave me a jump.  We drove off, dumbfounded.  I can be pretty cynical, but that man’s hardcore condescension took me off guard.  However, my faith in our fellow human beings was restored by the next person who helped us.  I’ve had car batteries die before and, usually, after getting jumped and being driven for awhile things work out alright.  However, after running a few errands (and leaving the car running, with someone inside, of course) the car decided to call it a day once again in a parking lot while it was still running.  That, I’ve never experienced.

Dreading a repeat of the gas station incident, I went straight to the employees.  I was pleasantly surprised when one employee, Elizabeth, offered to help right away.  Because of the way the parking spaces were configured, our jumper cables would not reach her car.  I began pushing the car out and Elizabeth started helping me push as well.  She then explained to another customer who was angry that the car was blocking her way that our car battery had died and we needed a jump, and could she pull out of the parking in lot in the other direction?  Once the cars were properly positioned, jumping it was a breeze.  We thanked Elizabeth sincerely (I’m definitely writing a letter to her manager to let them know how helpful she was to us) and were on our way.

What a mess we all are.  Even when we have good intentions, sometimes just having a bad day throws everything out the window.  I think, in some providential way, God knew that I needed to both the beauty and depravity residing in all of us, and to remind me to help others in need — even if it inconveniences me a bit.

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