I recently spent 3 days completely off the grid with 2 other friends. We spent a few days at a cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania hitting the reset button and refreshing our minds. It was awesome. I have a million stories, but one that must be told shook all three of us to our core. First, let me set the scene a bit….
Our mode of transportation for this adventure was an old pickup truck. Before we left we checked the fluids and filled as necessary. While checking them again before returning, I noted that one of us (probably me) forgot to put the cap back on the place where you pour the oil (official title). That’s not good. Not good at all. We decided to hit up a local auto parts store for a replacement cap before making the 4 hour journey home.
When we walked in, we found an older gentleman behind the counter. I explained what we needed and he began to search his computer for the correct part. When I say it was taking forever, I am not exaggerating. In my mind I was thinking “dude, how hard can it be? I could have found it on my cell phone by now.” Since that was pretty rude, I obviously didn’t say it. I would find out later my other traveling companions were thinking the same thing. He eventually found the part and that’s when it happened….
He said “we’ve got one. It will take me a few minutes since I’m not moving that fast due to my accident”. Next, all three of us would watch as he produced a walker from behind the counter (which we couldn’t see). As he slowly made his way down the parts sections, we noted a boot with pins holding his foot together. I was immediately beating myself up for even thinking what I had just thought. The story was just beginning though.
When he returned we began to make small talk asking about his injury. He proceeded to tell us how it was his first day back. 8 weeks ago he was driving home with his son in their GMC Envoy. At the crest of a hill, they met a Honda Civic which was traveling over 100 MPH and was fishtailing. The driver was arguing with his girlfriend on a cell phone. He went on to tell us that his GMC literally “cut that Civic in half”. The driver was thrown from the car and killed. You could feel the weight in his words. Regret and pain as he relived that moment. But he wasn’t done. The worst was still to come.
He told us that in the back seat of that Civic was a baby. I don’t remember who, but one of us finally asked the tough question…”did the baby make it?” and what he said next crushed us…”no”. What do you say in a moment like that? How do you comfort a complete stranger? In the silence of that moment, my friend Chad said “It’s not your fault”. It was about the only thing to say. We spent the remainder of our time listening, encouraging and struggling with what to do and what to say. It was just brutal.
There are a million ways to take this post. There are so many things to say but I think my immediate takeaway (even while I stood there) was the reminder that you never know what’s going on in someones life. I went from being a little put off at how long this man was taking to look up a simple part to being broken for the road he must travel now. Even as I type this, I am crushed. Broken for that family. Broken for that accident. Broken for a baby that never had a chance. So I’ll take this as a reminder. That car ahead of you that rushed past. That woman that yelled at you for no apparent reason. That guy that seemed in a hurry to get nowhere. Take a moment. Take a breath. Consider that you just never know what someone else is going through. You just never know.
Pray for our new friend. His name is Patrick. He’s dealing with a lot. More than I can even wrap my head around.