The day was grey. The sky spit rain sporadically, just enough to goad me into turning on and off the windshield wipers. Vehicles in front, behind along the highway all filled with different lives, dreams and realities.
I saw a vehicle and camper along the side of the road, broken down. About a mile later, in the drizzle I saw the determined walk of a traveler carrying a backpack fighting a rolling suitcase. What if our roles were reversed? Normally, my car is too full to offer rides but I was driving a rental which happened to be a small van.
What if he was me?
I pulled over. I saw relief in his face.
He was only going fifty miles up the highway to his mother's house. I was going further. As I drove he told me about himself, what brought him there. He told me he'd been stuck there most of the day with a low charge on his phone. No one stopped to even ask if he needed a hand, a ride, anything.
He had just mentally told the universe "Haven't I always stopped to start batteries, change tires- yet I'm stuck walking fifty miles in the rain? See if I help anyone next time."
Then I pulled over. I offered a ride. A woman taught never to let a stranger in her car. He told me all this. He was dumbfounded. Why did I stop, he asked.
"If it was me, I would have hoped someone would do the same. I have three good friends who hitchhike frequently. All three are guys who are trustworthy, intelligent, caring, and giving. If I a was stranded I would hope someone would take a chance and help me out."
He spent part of the ride trying to figure out what to give me as a reward. I had to tell him repeatedly that it wasn't about getting anything- it was lending a hand where it's needed. I told him pay it forward.
We take chances every day. Are they always wise? Sometimes we pretend there isn't a choice. We give ourselves reasons to burrow into detached apathy.
Talk to strangers. Meet your neighbors. Learn about the realities other people live inside, when you do it often enough you find it easy to change your own. Grow. Learn the names of the plants that grow in your area, which ones heal you, harm you or which ones you can eat. Learn the history of your community. Learn about different cultures. Sing a song with the radio. Do something you have never done before.
I take risks. I accept the price of taking chances, for me it's a better investment than living like I'm made of marzipan cowering on a shelf.
Sometimes our weaknesses and flaws are our strengths, depending on whether you use them or let them rule you.