On my drive to work recently I came across a car that was stopped at a major intersection. This was odd, because the traffic light was green, and the driver should have proceeded through. What made the situation worse was that it was raining heavily. So the intersection felt like a more dangerous and less enjoyable place to be stuck than usual. If I was writing a scene in a TV show about a person having a very bad day I would put the character in this situation.
As I drove around the car I noticed a thirty-something woman in the driver’s seat. She was looking around as if she was trying to figure out her next move. I knew what she was feeling. I used to have a car that enjoyed surprising me too.
I passed through the intersection and nosed down the hill on the other side, towards the Milwaukee River below. I kept looking in the rearview mirror to see if she started moving again. But she didn’t. If it was as if she saw that game of Red Light, Green Light from Squid Games and was afraid to move at all. Finally, just before I crossed the river and arrived at my office, I pulled a U-turn and headed back up the hill.
I eased my car into a parking lot near where the woman was stopped. I got out of my car and hustled to her driver’s side window. This put me in the middle of traffic, in the rain. The woman rolled down her window and I asked if she needed help. She responded, ‘Yes Please!’ She was clearly relieved to have some help.
I asked her if she could put the car in neutral. She tried. She could. So I told her that when the light turned green I would push her through the intersection and she should start rolling down the hill. I pointed to a stretch of open street parking at the bottom of the hill that she should pull into. She nodded in understanding. Then I walked to the back of the car where I assumed the role of her auxiliary human car engine. (Which I will be adding to my LinkedIn profile.)
When the light turned I started pushing on the lifeless car and got it rolling. After it slowly crept through the intersection it nosed downhill and picked up speed. Momentum and gravity made it look as if the car was no longer disabled. I stopped pushing and watched the car roll down the hill and neatly into a parking space below.
I jogged back to my car, hopped in, and drove down to greet the woman at the bottom of the hill. I walked up to the driver’s window again with a big smile and said, ‘You nailed that plan! Nice job! Do you need a ride somewhere?”
She told me that she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment and that she would greatly appreciate a ride. She showed me where the appointment was on the Google Maps app on her phone. Her destination was less than a half-mile down the road from where we were. She hopped in my car, and within a minute I dropped her off at her appointment, on time. She was extremely thankful for the help of a stranger. I was happy to lend a hand. And a couple of arms, legs and a back.
Whenever you find someone stuck, try to help them unstick themselves. It’s one of the most basic and helpful things we can do for each other. It doesn’t matter if the person is stuck physically, mentally, emotionally, or developmentally. Help them through if you can. Remember, you never know when it will be you who is stuck in one of life’s intersections, hoping someone comes along to give you that push you need to get going again.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.