It was on the way home in the early afternoon on Christmas Eve. Two years ago I was lost in thought driving home from my mom’s house in northeast Arkansas. It was the day after I attended my cousin’s funeral.
I hadn’t seen Brian in over twenty-five years, but I had a nagging feeling that I needed to be there. My mom lived 7 1/2 hours from me and I knew the travel was going to be hard because of my chronic pain. Yet, I felt compelled to pay respects to a stranger I barely knew a lifetime ago.
I’m about halfway home and near Malvern I saw this car on the side of the road. It was an old, beat up wreck. The car should have been at the junkyard, not on the shoulder of I-30.
As I passed, I debated whether I should turn back or not. After much inner debate, I finally decided to turn around at the next exit to investigate.
I knew this was going to foul up my time table. We celebrate Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is for tracking down extended family.
As I pull up behind this mechanized zombie, I’m shocked to see a girl. She was maybe 19 on her way home for Christmas break. I expected a meth addict with three teeth.
As I got out of the van I yelled if this young lady needed help. She said she called her uncle in Tyler, Texas and all was well. She had a flat tire. I asked her again if I can help. I could have the tire changed in no time. She refused and claimed she had no jack.
As I walked back to the van, I thought, “Well, I did my job. Time to get back on schedule.” Only I had an uneasy feeling like I had knots in my stomach.
My mind disengaged and I opened the trunk to retrieve my jack. I walked back to the decrepit car and told the girl I found my jack and would have her on the road in no time.
As I was jacking up the car, I inquired about the spare. No spare. Now I have to think fast. I can get a new tire at Walmart in Malvern.
I put the tire in the van and offered to give her a ride. She was being cautious and prudently refused.
I found Walmart and had the new tire put on the rim without incident and I was back on the road.
I find my spot behind this wreck. Ten minutes later the car is good as…well, as good as it’s gonna get.
This girl was excited and gave me a hug as all girls hug everyone. She inquired about the cost. I said, “No charge. Merry Christmas.”
That is among my top five greatest gifts I received. All because I was compelled to attend a near stranger’s funeral.