I was reading a blog post recently and it sparked a memory of a warm spring day, similar to the one I’m enjoying now. My sister and I were teaching together at the same school that year and were driving home — I remember it being a warm, sunny afternoon. We were about half way home when we saw the cars in front of us swerving, there was smoke, loud crashes — we all stopped immediately. My sister and I jumped out of our car and raced with several other people to the car lying on its side. A young girl, high-school age, was climbing, confused, out of the window. We helped her to the grass and forced her to lie there. Her shoulder was clearly dislocated, her leg clearly broken. There were two others with my sister and I calming the girl — that part was relatively easy.
My curiosity kept beckoning me to look into the car — to focus my attention on the young man who had been driving on this beautiful day only a few minutes earlier. By this time, a group of men had put the car upright and were all gathered around this boy — as he slumped in the driver’s seat. They were holding his head, holding his hands, patting his leg.
It was obvious, as I surveyed the scene, that this young man was near death. The moment became surreal. Everything began to move in slow motion. It was as if I was watching from a distance. I walked away to allow the sickness in my stomach out. I was on my knees, heaving…unable to help anyone. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see a fireman standing over me. He asked if I was ok, could he do anything for me. I was embarrassed, and shook my head no. He stayed a little longer, with his hand on my shoulder, long enough for me to return to the moment. The hand of a stranger.
I have often talked about how I usually don’t reach out to people — I usually prefer to keep to myself when my emotions are involved. But, recently I’ve discovered the need to reach out, the need to connect to someone, the need to have a friend and the need to be a friend.
With the help of a stranger, your world can come back into focus. I’ve met strangers that turned out to be some of the most significant people in my life — we were all strangers once.