I opted for a cab because of the snow. Figured I’d go with the old-fashioned tried and true professional cab driver to get me safely home from the airport. It went awry, though, as he sped past my exit, then tried to make the turn, and plunged into a deep snowbank. There on the side of the highway at the exit ramp, we took turns with his plastic shovel. The snow was deep and hard with ice. The cab was inches off the pavement.
It would have been dicey, but I could have walked home from there, and it was tempting. But it didn’t feel right to leave the taxi driver by himself in this predicament. So, I shoveled, then jammed cold hands into my pockets, then took another turn. He being from a warm country didn’t know what my Minnesota eyes could see, which was that we weren’t getting out of this without help. As I tried to talk him out of his adrenaline-driven shoveling, something special happened.
First it was the Asian man, who pulled over next to us, put on his N95, and offered to help. Then a young white woman with a flimsy shovel. Then a middle-aged white guy with bumper stickers I do not like also pulled over, with his grain shovel and a big truck. Next, a car full of young men likely from the same country as my cab driver stopped. In the end, it took one more person, a white hockey dad, also in a pickup truck, also with bumper stickers expressing opinions far different from my own, who whipped his truck around so he was facing traffic, and pulled out a tow rope. During a lull in traffic, with all of us pushing, the tow rope tightened, and the taxi emerged from the snow.
My typical 7-minute ride home took an hour and a half, which incidentally, was longer than my flight. Yes, it was a hassle. And I’m relieved everyone was alright on that wet, snowy night. My ‘speaker shoes’ and my ‘speaker pants’ are now washed clean from the salty, dirty snow. I assume the cab driver made it home ok that night, relieved that the vehicle was unharmed and that he did not to have to let his company know about the mishap.
What I want to hold onto is not just the kindness of strangers, though it was lovely. It’s the gathering of the particular people, standing in and on that snowbank together. An unlikely crew, to be sure, and one that I doubt would ever otherwise be associated. There was genuine care in all directions. Who and how else each of us are in the world was irrelevant.
Something led each person to pull over on a highway on a snowy night and offer to lend a hand, human being to human being. So I offer this story as an anecdote to the relentless reminders of all that seemingly separates us. At our core, most of us are willing to see past difference, maybe even celebrate it. Kindness, compassion, and a genuine desire to help really are alive and well, walking right past indifference.