It’s not like it used to be!
How often have we heard — and perhaps even uttered — the adage: “It’s not like it used to be!”
Many of us tend to idealize the past, fondly recalling those idyllic, innocent days when house and vehicle doors remained unlocked at night, when conversation with neighbours was routine over the fence, and when it was commonplace for neighbours to borrow from one another. We then compare the personal past with the impersonal present.
Some years ago, I read an article, in which the writer highlighted the trust that continues to linger in rural areas. The following words gave me momentary pause: “ I’ve … come to accept and be grateful for the trust in my community … Rural trust lingers along the back roads of home.” I then reflected on one time in particular when my faith in human nature was reinforced.
My wife and I were on the receiving end of treatment that served to reinforce our faith in human nature and destroy forever the aforementioned adage, “It’s not like it used to be!”
Sherry and I had just flown into Gander after a vacation in Florida. We picked up our car in the parking lot and headed to the community in which we lived at the time.
Around 2 a. m., less than two hours from home, our car gave up the ghost. We coasted to the roadside and prepared to wait it out on a lonely stretch of highway. Our daughter is an automotive technician, but I personally claim no mechanical aptitude. So I didn’t know where to even begin to repair whatever had caused the motor to cease and desist. We were effectively stranded. What to do? Our first thought was to spend the rest of the night in the car, but we knew our children at home were anxiously awaiting our arrival. Few motorists had cell-phones in those days.
As the first headlights descended on us from behind, I switched on the emergency flashers. The approaching transport truck zoomed by.
We breathed a prayer and waited for the next set of headlights to appear in the rear-view mirror.
Moments later, two sets of lights crested the incline behind us. Again, I switched on the flashers.
Jumping from the car, I began waving my wife’s white jacket like a banshee, to flag down the drivers.
To our relief, both vehicles — a car and another 18-wheeler — stopped and offered assistance.
The car’s owner was a nurse at the hospital in St. Anthony. She and her boyfriend had also just returned from Florida.
Although we had never met before, they immediately offered to take us to the town where Sherry’s parents live. We were dropped off at their front door.
The “ministering angels” politely but adamantly refused any remuneration for their services. “ We were going this way anyway!” one of them said.
We were deeply appreciative of their kindness and, as mentioned earlier, the incident served to reinforce our faith in human nature.
At the same time, it raised certain obvious but nagging questions. What, for example, might others have done? Well, we already knew what the first 18-wheeler had done.
What might we have done had we spied a stranger waving a white jacket on an isolated stretch of highway at two in the morning? I had often picked up hitchhikers during daylight hours, but would I have been as eager to assist in the middle of the night?
There’s a humourous side to this story. Before boarding the car of the Good Samaritans who had offered us a lift, we meticulously locked the car doors.
Perhaps I had watched too many episodes of CSI and Law and Order! All of our luggage was entombed in the vehicle, and naturally we wanted to protect it from marauding thieves!
The next morning, when my father-in-law and I arrived back at our car, we discovered, much to my embarrassment, that I had left the driver’s window wide open! Understandably, I’ve never been allowed to live this down!
Human decency exists; I haven’t lost faith in humanity, after all.
Mind you, I don’t trust human nature in general. There are some rather disconcerting human traits. We hear of and witness so much crime and violence that we often generalize about people. Still, I continue to live with a healthy degree of cynicism about human nature.
Mark Twain said, “ The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog!” I often say this about Madisyn, my border collie.
Discernment is commendable, and certainly something we wisely teach our children. At the same time, there are isolated incidents that affirm and renew our faith in human nature.
In our case, two special people came to our assistance in a moment of desperation. The milk of human kindness still flows … sometimes as a gush, and other times as a trickle.