The first time I travelled through Minnesota on my way to Winnipeg, I realized how much more comfortable I am in urban areas. The further west I drove, the more anxious I became, as traffic thinned out and pick-up trucks outnumbered cars.
I hadn’t know this about myself, but I quickly realized that I had some irrational fears about wide-open spaces and men in pick-up trucks (especially trucks with gun racks). While many people might be afraid to walk through big cities, I was afraid of driving through open farmland.
So, there I was somewhere west of St. Cloud, when hail started pelting my car. I pulled to the shoulder of the expressway under an overpass to wait out the storm. It passed quickly, and I was on my way.
My car had not even reached the speed limit when I crested a small hill and the road curved to the left. As I came down the hill, my car hydroplaned. I hit the brakes, and my car spun several times until I reached the grass on the side of the road and then plunged down the ravine.
I thought I was going to die.
But my car eventually stopped with the front end sunk in mud.
I sat there, stunned, until several men came running down the hill and helped me out of my car. Then they tried to push the car out of the mud, which proved impossible; the car needed to be towed.
One of the men offered to drive me to a gas station, and I got into his car.
After a few minutes, the shock of the accident started to wear off, and I realized I was in a stranger’s car in the middle of Minnesota and no one knew where I was. Panic began to set in.
The man tried to be friendly, telling me he lived in Fargo, North Dakota, and often drove this highway for work. But between the shock of the accident and the realization I was completely vulnerable, I could barely speak.
Before long, though, he pulled off the highway and into a garage. He explained to a mechanic what had happened and a tow truck was dispatched. The man who had given me a ride asked if I was ok; I said I was. He assured me the people in the station would take care of me, and then he drove away.
The tow truck reappeared soon after that and other than some weeds and mud stuck underneath, my car was miraculously not damaged.
I pulled out a credit card to pay, and the mechanic said the man who had dropped me off had already paid all the charges.
For the first time since my car spun out, I started to cry—relief mixed with gratitude.
He had been a Good Samaritan, and I had been afraid of him. I felt ashamed, and since he had paid in cash, I could not even find out who he was to thank him.
Thirty years later, I still think of that man with gratitude. He helped me in a time of crisis and he also showed me how my fears color reality.
He taught me that if I only looked through the lens of my prejudices my vision is distorted.
My encounter with this man was an invitation to check my fears and prejudices and to be more open to accept help from a stranger.
Madeline Bialecki grew up in Detroit and recently returned after living in Philadelphia for twenty-eight years. She began writing about her spiritual journey and faith life after the death of her best friend in 2012. She likes to read, knit, bake and garden. She shares her spiritual journey here.