Fred Rogers’ mother told him as a child that when terrible things happened he should always look for the helpers.
That advice hasn’t stayed with me as firmly as it should, not all the time anyway, and I admit my faith in humanity often slips. Today I had cause to be reminded that there are still good people out there, even if they aren’t as often captured on cell phone video or posted on YouTube.
I was sitting at my coffee shop this bright and sunny morning, with my spouse. She had a cold brew and cacao, I was celebrating her negative pathology results with an iced chai. Deliciousness in a glass, that. We were having a peaceful time.
The front porch of the coffee shop faces a busy, six lane street. We see plenty of near misses and traffic on that street and often comment on the interesting or colorful cars that we see. Not long before, a bright green VW van had gone by, with huge daisies impeccably painted on it, followed by a gorgeous deep purple Dodge Challenger. Lovely car.
A little while later we saw something that wasn’t so lovely. A rental car stopped too fast in order to turn in to a driveway, a small sedan was following a touch too close.
In an instant, the one who had been rear ended was driving away up the street, carried by instinct I think, and the car who had been behind was a wrecked and smashed mess that was bleeding fluids everywhere. Radiator fluid, steering fluid, brake fluid – it was a pinkish red, spreading puddle. I sniffed the air and did not smell gas, to my relief.
My spouse headed up the street to check the other driver. I stayed to watch our stuff. A young man and woman got out of the car, along with a cat carrier. Spouse came back after a bit, gave me the license plate number and said the person in the car was all right and on the phone with 911.
The forlorn couple with the smashed car were on their phones as well. I ran over to let them know I had the license plate number in case they needed it. When emergency services came, everyone migrated to the front patio of the coffee shop, it was the nearest place with chairs.
What I noticed then was all the helpers. The cops being gentle with the drivers, the EMTs putting patient care above all else, the woman nearby who brought water for one of the drivers. The people who came to help both drivers, offering comfort and support. We had our own job too. We got to cat-watch. The occupant of the cat carrier was an older kitty with a broken arm, they’d been taking him to the vet to get his cast changed. I was happy to see his owners loved him enough to get him a vet’s help. We looked after him a couple of times as the young couple had to take care of various things related to the accident.
Soon I saw people coming to help both sets of drivers. I checked to see if the young couple needed a ride anywhere or a cup of coffee. At the end, when the wrecks had been cleaned up and the cops were gone, I saw the drivers of both cars shake hands – young man and older woman, showing respect for each other. There was no screaming match, they behaved like civilized people.
I tell you it almost made me cry I was so happy to see it.
It was a terrible thing to happen – but in the end, everybody was all right. No one was hurt, and I saw so much caring and regard on that coffee shop patio.
I saw helpers that day.