Packed with everything I owned, the truck lumbered up and down hills until it found its pace in the San Joaquin Valley. A few hours into the journey, I felt rather good about myself. I had just accepted a new position in Irvine, and it seemed that everything was working out perfectly. I had sold my home and found another, and soon I would be living within an easy drive to family.
All was well until the truck’s warning lights flashed and steam started rising from the hood.
My usual response to any car problem was to call my dad. But I didn’t want to do that. I knew what he would say. After a barely audible mumble, he’d ask. “You didn’t bring water?!” In my defense, I didn't know that Bakersfield is hot, very hot, in July. A phone call would mean a confession, and I was too proud to admit that I simply had forgotten to bring water. I quickly pulled over to a nearby rest stop.
While steam hissed from the radiator, I paced and fought back all the nasty things I wanted to say to the U-Haul guy who assigned me the truck. Beads of sweat quickly evaporated in the 115 degree temperature and I was miserable. I spun around to look for shade and noticed a water fountain. An answer to prayer? I looked in the cab for a container and found none. I checked the trash bins, but they were recently emptied. Then it hit me, I had no way to carry water.
I was nursing my despair on the curbside when an older couple drove into the parking spot next to my truck. Seeing my distress, the gentleman came over and asked if I needed help.
I started to explain my drama, how I was peacefully driving down the freeway when the warning lights went off and then and then… I paused. I realized that the gentleman’s eyes had glazed. I quickly responded, “Yes, sir, I need help.”
He walked back to his car and returned with a gallon of water. “You know ma’am, you should always travel with water.” I nodded and thought of dad. This was a lesson I would never forget.
The couple disappeared for a few minutes and then returned to their car. Before leaving, the elderly gentleman explained what I needed to do after the steam subsided and wished me well. I thanked him profusely for his help and especially for the gallon of water.
I thought of this roadside encounter as I watched the news this morning. With all the chaos and noise that surrounds us, it is easy to forget the goodness of people. I’ve often wondered about the kind Black gentleman who came to my aid that summer day. Could he have been an angel?