I'm a Believer
In 1967 a rock group fancifully named The Monkees sang the song: “I’m a Believer.” Never mind that the song’s context was different from mine, but I’m also a believer.
There is a lot in the world – way too much, for that matter – that tempts one to disgruntlement, despair, or something in between. But now and then – often, if one looks for it – something happens that affirms one’s belief in the goodness of people. Yesterday something happened.
There is a Veterans Administration medical center about forty-five minutes from my house. I’ve made the rather straightforward dive many times. After over a half hour of 5mph-crawling on the Interstate highway due to an accident, I finally came to the exit for the VA center. A quarter of a mile down the road I was accosted a brazen Road Closed sign with a detour arrow pointing me down a neighborhood street. Following the arrow, I turned onto the heretofore untraveled roadway and motored along looking for the next detour sign to guide me. In short, I travelled quite a long distance before consciously acknowledging that I was getting farther and farther away from the VA. No other turn-here detour signs had been seen. The area is dotted with small lakes that produced a twisty-turny route, and no side streets appeared to be thoroughfares. There had to be an alternate way into the military base, but all my nav system wanted to do was route me back the direct-route course . . . which was, to repeat myself, closed. I was already late for my appointment and felt like a airplane pilot in a fog with failed instruments. What’s a fellow to do?
In some quarters there’s an asinine dictum that real men don’t ask for directions. In my late-and-lost state, I didn’t feel like pushing the real man image. Intending to ask the clerk for directions, I turned my car around and headed for a convenience store a mile or so back. As I pulled into the 7-11 parking lot, a pickup truck pulled alongside me. Said truck’s driver, a retired-and-friendly-looking man, exited the same time I did. So I approached him, explained my lostness, and asked if he knew a way to the VA center. The gentleman was more than willing to explain the back-neighborhood route, but cautioned that it would be easy to lose one’s way in the labyrinth of curvy, convoluted neighborhood byways. Perhaps sensing that I’m more at home in wilderness with map and compass than in a metro area sans map, he suddenly said, “Hey, just follow me. I’ve got plenty of time.” I did just that . . . followed him several miles through a tangled web of streets to the very VA center I sought. As I shouted my thanks, he waved back at me with a have-a-nice-day grin.
The good Samaritan had no other reason to rescue me other than meeting a lost soul who needed a helping hand. He spent time, energy, and gas simply being a nice guy. A kind guy. A swell fellow.
With all the unhelpful, self-absorbed people who wouldn’t give you a dime or the time of day, it was refreshing and energizing to be the recipient of a person’s graciousness whose only motive was to be helpful.
Two takeaways: 1) There are many more random acts of kindness than we tend to think; one only needs to look for them. 2) The rescuer was a model for me; I want to be like him.
Are people, by and large, kindhearted, basically good? Yes, I believe. Yes. I’m a believer.