Close Encounters Of The Kind Kind

The power of kindness

On this crazy planet we all inhabit, an act of kindness can seem as rare as an alien encounter. But such encounters can change your day in ways that you never forget.

The following took place in 2010 and I still think about it when I need to restore my faith in humanity. The hero didn't arrive in a flying saucer but his spontaneous generosity felt out of this world. 

The end of a long day. We have all enjoyed a 5K walk. My wife Anna, son Michael, daughter Brodie, and myself. A day of gentle sunshine has almost shone its last and we are all happily tired. Time now for a nice cup of tea at home.

Anna is at the wheel of our turn of the century Holden station wagon and reverses out of the car park. She reverses a little too far. We know this is true because the back end of the car drops with a disturbing thump. The sort of thump that lets you know immediately that your cosy cup of tea will have to wait.

My significant other has driven the right rear wheel of the wagon over the edge of a ditch. This ditch is not all that deep, just deep enough to ensure that there is absolutely no hope of driving or pushing the car out of its predicament.

Okay, apply handbrake and evacuate the vehicle. Now what? We all stare at the car and it stares back at us with stubborn solidity. Our roadside assistance provider won’t be able to help us with this one. We will need a tow truck. 

We are in no danger. None of us are injured or in need of urgent help. But the prospect of what lies ahead is not attractive. Since neither Anna nor I brought our mobile phones (2010, ah simpler times) on this trip someone will have to walk more Ks into the nearest town to find a public telephone.

And since neither of us has brought any money that someone will also need to find another someone in town willing to part with a little change or lend their phone so the call to the tow truck company can be made. Will a tow truck even come if we have no credit card details to proffer? The only sure thing is that this process will take hours, or measured from the viewpoint of tired children, an eternity. Marital discord is also a distinct possibility.

Then something happens. A 4 wheel drive rolls into the car park. Inside is a man and four children. The man gets out of his car. Is he here to help? No, he doesn’t even acknowledge us, just opens the hatch of his car and…wait…those are chains in his hands. 

“Saw you from the road” this burly bloke says with a smile as he lies down next to our car. In the next five minutes he has the station wagon chained to his tow bar. Then he says “okey-dokey”, slides into his vehicle and eases down the accelerator. A huge cheer as the right wheel of our wagon climbs over the lip of the ditch. Stress turns to joy. Anna and I add a dozen more “thank yous” to the deluge we’ve already delivered to our saviour.

“Your Dad’s wonderful” I tell the kids in the 4 Wheel Drive. One of them shrugs “He always does stuff like this.” Their Dad’s name is Frank and we learn a little about him. He’s an ex-policeman, now he’s a DJ at blue light discos, he lives not far from us. A handshake and “thanks again” and he and his tribe are gone and then we are too. “I hope that’s your last ditch effort” I joke to my Anna, both of us relieved and grateful to arrive home. The kettle is soon boiling.

As I think about Frank’s actions I realise how quickly he decided to help. There was an embankment between the road and our car that meant our dilemma would have been visible to Frank for a matter of seconds. He had to register the wheel in the ditch, decide to assist, and then slow down and veer off the road, all in a few heartbeats. But Frank was used to listening to his heart, and because of that he made our hearts so much lighter on the day we met him.

Anthony Ackroyd

©Anthony Ackroyd 2023

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