Traveling along I-95 in south Florida can often make you feel as if you’re putting your life on the line. Last week it was more than just a feeling.
We were four women driving to a memorial service sixty miles from home. In the middle lane of I-95, the truck in front of us kicked up road debris. With no time to maneuver, my left front tire hit the debris and blew out on impact.
Holding on for dear life (literally!) – with my three passengers praying – I gripped the steering wheel and watched for a break in traffic so I could change lanes and get to the shoulder.
It was an interesting sight: four vehicles lined up a few yards apart on the shoulder of I-95. A utility vehicle, my car, and two cars behind me, all pulled over because we hit the same road debris.
I and my passengers exited the car and surveyed the damage. Thankfully, we were all unhurt and the body of the car was undamaged. Still, the tire sported a gash in the sidewall that rendered it completely flat. Can I change a tire? Sure. But dressed for a memorial service, I wasn’t eager to do it.
What occurred next was something that, according to most media stories we’ve been hearing, was not supposed to happen. Something I discussed in last week’s blog post, “Whose Lives Matter?” And it has to do with the drivers of these four vehicles…
The car parked behind me was driven by a white man who didn’t give us a second look. He checked his car, found no damage, and drove off without a word. The driver behind him also drove off without any conversation.
Two black men exited the truck parked in front of us. After checking their own vehicle, they walked toward us. A look at the front of my car told the story. Without hesitation, one asked if I had a spare. The other asked if I had a jack.
In less than fifteen minutes the tire was changed by Xeron and Dante, two of the nicest men you’d ever hope to meet. Thanks to them, we even made it to the memorial service on time.
I mentioned the skin color of each of the drivers for a reason. You see, according to many media reports, the animosity between blacks and whites has reached hostile levels of no return. This “us vs. them” mentality has supposedly created unbridgeable chasms.
Four white women were stranded on I-95, ignored by white men, and assisted by two black men. This story does not fit published stereotypes. And I believe similar stories are occurring across our nation. Stories of people reaching out to other people, regardless of skin color. White to black and black to white, bridging the racial divide.
Unless it’s an extremely slow day, stories like this one are rarely deemed newsworthy. They don’t give politicians an excuse to posture and pontificate. They don’t provide professional protesters a reason to haul out their signs – pro or con.
Sadly, stories like this one shouldn’t make headlines. Encounters such as ours should be so common that they’re the rule instead of the exception.
Xeron and Dante blessed us. They didn’t care about our skin color and we didn’t care about theirs. They saw a need and met it. And by the grace of God, the next time I see a need, I will meet it, regardless of the color of the other person’s skin.
What would happen if each of us made that commitment?
I’m reminded of the story of a boy on the beach tossing stranded starfish into the ocean. He was asked why he bothered – after all, with hundreds of stranded starfish dotting the sand, his actions wouldn’t make much of a difference. As the boy picked up another starfish and tossed it into the ebbing tide, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”
We can make a difference, one person at a time. Xeron and Dante did. And I want to be like them.
How about you?