Heading south on US-77 out of El Dorado, we watched the ebbing sights of another day’s easing into evening.
In that dull dimness, I saw an older model pickup truck parked on the shoulder of the southbound lane. Less than a half-minute later, I could barely see the shape of a person dressed in dark clothing and walking alongside the road. By the time I realized that was probably the driver of the vehicle, I was already well past. I quickly braked to a stop on the shoulder. The abrupt change in motion stirred our French Brittany Spaniel into alertness. Layla stood up and looked out the windows with her ears cocked up and tilted forward as if trying to find some reason for the unscheduled stop.
“Did you see that guy back there?” I asked Randa. “No, I didn’t see anyone,” she responded.
“I think it might be the driver of that truck,” I replied.
Seeing no headlights approaching for a couple of miles in either direction, I shifted into reverse. Pretty soon, we’d made it back to that person still walking along on the shoulder.
I stopped our car and Randa lowered her window. “Do you need some help?”
As the person stepped over to the car, we realized it was a young woman with a small baby strapped to her chest. “Yes,” she replied, “I’ve got a flat and I can’t get the spare to lower down.” Then she added, “I only live another mile or two up the road.”
We offered her a ride and apologized for the dog in the back seat. “Oh, that’s no problem; I’ve got four dogs.” Randa ordered Layla over to the side and the woman slid onto the seat, baby still wrapped against her. Layla was her usual courteous and curious self and made friends right away. She kept trying to sniff the three-month-old baby’s face. Randa scolded her and the woman said, “Oh, she’s okay; don’t worry about it.”
It turned out that the woman’s home was a bit further than she’d estimated; it was more like three or four miles. When we stopped just a few minutes later and she and baby got out, Layla stood at the window and watched them walk away and into the house. We circled around the big cedar and headed back onto the highway.
I thought about how hard it had been to see the woman walking along the road. “You know,” I mused out loud to Randa, “I can’t help thinking about how easy it would have been for someone to come along back there in the dark. They could have been texting, or drunk or just not paying attention and could have easily hit that woman and that baby.”
In some ways it doesn’t really matter whether we prevented some great tragedy. Even if all we did was save a tired young mother from a long walk in the dark at the end of a frustrating day, it was worth doing.
Our small inconveniences are sometimes seen as great kindness in the eyes of others. Especially those who are tired and alone.