21 Apr

Last night I found myself both excruciatingly embarrassed and appropriately humbled. I acted more like Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott character than I ever have—and anyone who has seen The Office knows that’s not a good thing. I was using my GPS to find my way on an unfamiliar gravelly country road. Now, in feeble defense of what I am about to describe, I’d like to say it was very dark and I was distracted by the delicious Chocolate Xtreme blizzard I was eating. The GPS told me to turn left to continue towards my destination. To my left, there was no actual road, but what looked like an empty field. In a regrettable moment, I went ahead and turned, hoping that I’d be able to see this mysterious road in the path of my car’s headlights. Nope. Still just a field. At this point I realized I was going to have to turn around. As I pulled my car around in the dark, I drove right into a ditch. I didn’t know it was a ditch at first… and I managed to get my tiny compact car with front wheel drive completely stuck in this ditch.

Picture this scene: it’s dark. You are stuck in a ditch in an unfamiliar and remote part of Ohio dairy country. You drove about a mile on a gravel road before getting stuck in said ditch. You are stuck in a ditch because you did something idiotic at the direction of a computer. You can see a light about a half mile in the distance from what looks like a farmhouse.

If you’re feeling sympathetic traces of panic and humiliation in the pit of your stomach, I am sorry. I haven’t felt so moronic in quite some time. I imagined the difficulty of explaining how I had driven into a ditch to the burly driver of a tow truck. I imagined the complication of getting a tow truck driver to find me in the darkness in the middle of nowhere between a gravel road and a field of unknown address. I began to feel the telltale beginnings of an anxiety attack. And then I saw the light of the farmhouse turn off and a truck begin driving towards me. Say it with me now… AUUUUGHHHHH.

However, this is not a story about being chased through an empty cornfield by some shotgun wielding farmer, or about being soundly berated for acting like an incompetent weirdo on a stranger’s property. I am incredibly relieved to say that this is a story about complete strangers showing grace and kindness to someone who didn’t deserve it. The husband and wife who lived in the farmhouse were nice to me. Astonishingly, they didn’t make me feel dumb. It is true they were confused about how I got so soundly stuck in their ditch. They were also confused about what I was doing on what turned out to be their private driveway, not a public road as my GPS had suggested. Still, despite their confusion they treated me kindly and even helped me get my car out of the ditch. They accepted my apology for inadvertently trespassing on their farm and for driving directly into their ditch. Within a half hour I was on my way home and listening to Mike Doughty’s “I Hear the Bells” on repeat in an attempt to calm my jangling nerves.

This experience is hardly the first time I’ve experienced undeserved grace and mercy. I share this story not to further cement my embarrassment at behaving like a terrible Regional Manager of a midlevel paper supply company, but to rejoice in the kindness of strangers. Like a lot of people, I’ve made mistakes time after time in my life. Sometimes I’ve done things intentionally and then regretted them. There have been so many times when I deserved to be punished, or at least verbally rebuked, but have instead been shocked to find that people extend a hand of understanding and compassion.

Friends, have you experienced a stranger’s kindness in a similar situation? (For the record, I hope it wasn’t a very similar situation!) In the wake of this experience, I am resolving to be that gentle stranger to others whenever I can. And also to never drive into a ditch again.



  1. Alicia Seling April 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM #

    So glad you’re back to blogging! I always look forward to your posts :)

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