It’s not like it used to be!

The Compass - - OPINION -

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.

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