It was a miserable day. Not the worst of my life, mind you, but high enough up there that I can remember every moment of the hurts and insults, courage and frustration that happened from morning to late in the afternoon.
I was in an awful position. I was scheduled to teach about resilience and the importance of primary relationships at an all-day meeting for children and youth supervisors. Now, ordinarily, that would have been a slam dunk for me. But that morning, my then husband and I had the final disagreement. When I went to start the car I was also starting the beginning of my new life as a separated woman; not by choice, mind you; at least, not by conscious choice.
So with a smile painted on my lips I talked about mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children. Somehow, I managed to keep it together; I was resilient. After all they did not need to hear my tale of woe, of sadness, of anger, of my life now with big red slashes through it.
Here is an important issue for all leaders. When do you say the show must go on? When do you say it’s too much for me? When do you share your personal burdens with others? When do you simply smile and bite the bullet?
I do not have brilliant answers for these questions. I only know we need to talk about them so when the pain point is way too high we have some guidelines to help us. Back then, I only knew that I had obligations and I would carry them out to the best of my ability, even though I wondered if I would make it to the next day.
On the way home from the seminar I finally let loose and cried till my silk blouse was clinging to my skin. Then I heard a pop. And the car began to limp. I pulled to the side of the road and shouted to the air “Enough”.
Did you ever change a tire? Did you ever change a tire in your best silk blouse stained with tears? This was before cell phones. So, I got out of the car and simply leaned on the hood. It was a beautiful fall day and I just leaned there, by the side of the road and hoped my teenage daughters would figure out how to get home from afterschool sports.
Now, I did not wave cars down, did not even think about getting help. I just leaned, and cried, and leaned.
Soon a brawny man pulled up behind me and got out of his car. I clutched. I was ready to scream, defend myself. Instead when he walked over and said in a matter of fact tone that he knew I had a flat tire, I started to ball all over again.
Suddenly he was the enemy. I did not, absolutely did not want help from a man. And then my victim pattern clicked in and I thought “after all the years of thinking about HIM first, why not, why not just let any man, this Man change my tire”.
He knew his way around cars and soon mine was standing steady on all fours. I fumbled in my purse for money. He took my outstretched hand and sort of shook it and nodded to put the money away. He then looked me straight in the eyes and said “It will be okay, you are resilient. And maybe it would also be good to learn to change a tire.”
With that he was gone. Drove off on his white horse, or maybe it was a white car. I did feel better, just one short moment of getting help made all the difference.
When I came to the ticket booth at the turnpike I took the crumpled ten dollar bill, handed it to the ticket taker and asked her to use it to pay for my car and other cars after me until the money was used up. Who knows, maybe someone else having a bad day would feel just a bit better from a random act of kindness.