Gratitude: Learning from a stranger’s kindness

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Melody Beattie

Story and photo by Faye Bayko

Each night in my Vancouver neighborhood the clapping and hooting starts just before seven o’clock. This is accompanied by the banging of some form of utensil on a pan or pot, the odd blast of a trumpet or other wind instrument, and my drum. It’s noisy. It’s loud. And it’s great.

I’m proud to be part of this nightly expression of gratitude aimed at the front-line workers doing battle with the COVID-19 health crisis. It takes only a couple of minutes each day and is never a waste of time.

Recently, however, I have gained another reason to pound my drum and shout out my gratitude. Two weeks ago, I found myself in a dicey situation on Highway 1 and I was rescued by the kindness of a stranger.

I usually don’t travel on Highway 1. In fact, I usually avoid it. It scares me. But for this particular Monday afternoon I was in a rush and wanted to get out to Lepp Farm Market in Abbotsford before it closed. I told myself that driving the highway would provide an opportunity for me to face my fears.

It did that and more.

While the destination was the market, the reason behind the drive was a little more complicated. First, it had been two weeks since my husband had started working from home. Like so many others, he was making the best of a situation until the social distancing restrictions of the COVID-19 virus outbreak were lifted.

Our condo is not big. There were conflicts.

I was subjected to an endless stream of one-sided conversations as my husband worked through one virtual meeting after another. I tried separating myself by working in the bedroom but his voice traveled through the hollow door. His being home 24/7 was making it very difficult for me to concentrate on the research and writing I had to get done for my projects.

Secondly, our condo complex is undergoing major construction work, which has included a solid week of jackhammering, followed by two weeks of the rumble and clang of tractors clearing dirt and rocks, shaking the foundations on irregular basis, and creating a nervous tension in the place.

My bike and my car have always been the keepers of my sanity. So, on that Monday afternoon, I grabbed the keys to the KIA and headed out. Long drives usually calm me and I hoped after such a drive I’d be able to salvage what was left of my writing day.

I’d driven about 65 kms and had hit the outskirts of Abbotsford when the KIA’s console lights started lighting up. First two, then four. Then the vehicle started rabbit hopping. I tried gearing down but that didn’t seem to help and only caused another light to flash. I pulled to the side of the highway and turned the ignition off. Maybe, I thought, it just needed a moment to sort itself out. The KIA had never given me a problem since we’d bought it new in 2007, so I wasn’t expecting one now. But when I tried starting it the only response was the sound of the locks locking and unlocking, as if I was in one of those alien abduction movies.

It took me a moment to fully come to terms with my situation. I was on the side of a highway with no cellphone. The one I’d had, I’d lost over two years previous and stubbornly refused to replace. I liked my freedom. But as I sat there with the wind currents of passing traffic buffeting the KIA, I knew I’d made a mistake in not replacing it.

I glanced around to see if there was a place I might find a payphone. I spied a Fast Gas across the highway. I figured it was probably my best chance of contacting the husband I’d left an hour before with a mumbled, “Going for a drive.”

Locking and leaving the vehicle behind, I started walking along the side of the highway, glancing back over my shoulder to check the traffic for a break through which I could run across to the gas station. Then I noticed a white truck had pulled to the side of the road several yards ahead of me. I paused. I was unsure what to do. I wanted help but was unsure if I wanted it from a stranger. Then the driver started backing the vehicle toward me and I saw two little faces looking out at me from the cab’s back seat.

The children’s faces reassured me and I ran forward.

When I reached the passenger side of the truck, the male driver lowered the window and I was greeted by the curious smiles of the children. After a quick and jumbled explanation of my situation, I said I needed to call my husband to arrange a tow truck. The driver, whose name I later learned was Nathan, used his phone to call my husband Robert and between us we worked out a plan to get me the help I needed.

After the call, Nathan offered to wait until the tow truck came, only leaving after I’d assured him I’d be okay. But a few minutes later he was back. I guess another phone conversation with my husband had taken place and it was learned that I would not be able to ride with the tow truck driver. Robert was making arrangements to find me a ride back home. Nathan came back because he said he wouldn’t have wanted his wife stuck on the side of the highway, so couldn’t leave someone else’s. Nathan had assured my husband that he’d give me a ride to his brother’s where I would have an address to give the taxi.

As it turned out, it was my son who picked me up an hour later from Nathan’s brother’s front yard.

The fact that Nathan had taken the chance to help me, especially during the COVID-19 heath crisis, makes me so proud to know him. The fact that I had put him in that position in the first place has made me realize how incredibly stupid I was to have jumped into my vehicle with no thought of what would happen if that vehicle broke down.

So, each night when I pound my drum I not only do it for the front-line workers, I pound it for the kindness of strangers.

About Author

Faye Bayko
I am a writer and photographer currently working out of Port Alberni, BC.