Years ago, I was driving my mother’s brand new bright orange VW bug on an icy day, and had my first car accident. I wasn’t driving fast; I had turned on to the highway and hit a patch of black ice. Before I knew it, the car flipped over on its roof, spun and hit a guard rail and then flipped over again, landing on its tires and facing traffic the wrong way.
To say I was shaken up is an understatement. I now realize I was in shock. I had minor bruises and cuts, but what made me cry was seeing the damage to Mom’s car—its roof was badly dented. Back then, there were no cell phones, and I wasn’t thinking straight enough to go looking for a phone booth. I just remember standing there sobbing because I’d ruined Mom’s new car.
Someone must have notified the police, because they arrived quickly. But before that, a man drove up to where I was standing. He rolled down his window and asked me what happened. Sobbing, I told him, and he gently took my hand and looked up at me. He said, “You’re going to be all right. The car can be replaced, but there is only one you.”
To this day, I can still see his face and how kind his eyes were. The police got the car off the road and had it towed to a station. I called my parents to tell them what had happened, and of course they cared only that I was ok.
It took me just short of a year to pay my parents back for the damage done to the car. To date it has been my only accident, and I hope I never have another one. I understand now how you can be just fine in one moment, and then in the next–not.
I will never forget the man who stopped, held my hand, and reassured me that the car was not the important thing; I was. He put things in perspective for me, and more than that, his calm demeanor comforted me.
It is sad that we think too often about the value of things and not people; sadder still that we do it to ourselves. That one accident changed my outlook forever. Looking back, it was more lesson than accident. These days I drive carefully, always with the image of that man’s face in my mind.
Whoever you were, thank you from the bottom of my heart.