Crashing in America

My son and I were driving and we saw a crash that had occurred just minutes before on the side of the road. I looked at the crash up close as I slowly passed and it was more than a fender bender. I quickly sensed there could be people trapped or hurt. I pulled to the side immediately in a safe space. I took a hard look at my 13-year-old son, and I said we have to go. He knew what I meant. He had the presence of mind to say he could not get out on his side with the heavy traffic and crawled out my side.

We got out and we went over to the people. It was not a terrible crash but there was a lady with two small children stuck in the back of her car, and she was very upset and scared. The police and ambulance had not arrived. Her children were still in their seats and we had to decide whether to take them out of the car or not, considering the fact that there was fluid on the ground. The other driver and his partner were upset and sorry and scared too.

So I just looked at all of them and I looked and I looked to see what was needed. People did not want know what to do who were standing and watching. I decided that what she needed was a very, very gentle approach of compassion of inquiry, what I could do for the kids, what I could do for her. And then it was like a waterfall, one stranger after another came up and offered to do things for her. She looked at us these strangers in the most terrified way. She clearly was horrified to be on the street and vulnerable. I noticed other strangers were calling the police then someone bought a banana for the child. Then somebody bought some water and put it into her purse. I mean, the entire car crowd started to become one big helping party. An older Hispanic woman came over and offered to hold the baby and the woman driver decided to trust her. I bent down to stroke the hair of the older child Charlotte and said she had a beautiful name. I told her that soon there would be some big noises but she is safe, and all those trucks were coming just to make sure she was safe, but that she looked great. She was crying. The mother was talking nervously and holding the babies and holding her purse for dear life, and then she volunteered that she was pregnant. And then she volunteered that she had called her father and he would be there immediately, and she was talking to them on the phone begging them to come now, now.

We stayed until the police came and then a huge fire truck came in. Then I became concerned that my car was blocking the way. And then we left. My son said he wanted to stay, as he never had experienced anything like that before. That was powerful to me. In part I left because I did not want to traumatize him too much. But I also wanted him to see what we could do in just a few seconds of someone else's life when they were scared. I said, we did good, we did real good. He said, I did nothing. I said you came, and you supported, that is more than enough.
But my son was right. The hardest part was assessing how anything could be done considering the fact that the woman was absolutely terrified of strangers and of the situation. The kindness of strangers was overwhelming, however, the outpouring, and she relented to our help.

Here I was on the streets of America. It was right in the middle of endless news cycles of angry Americans shouting horrible things at other Americans. At a certain point I felt that the crowd was being so kind that they were trying to atone for everything they felt as Americans in this crazy time. As if they meant to say, all that insanity is not us. This is us, this is us.

All were safe in the end. And all will be safe, as long as the crowd remains calm and compassionate, and thinks to itself, this is us, this is us.

I think I was so much at peace, and did all the right things rationally and empathically because just days before, I hugged a boy who had lost both limbs on one side from the bombs that fell on his house, 15 miles away in Syria, bombs that fell on his entire town, bombs that fell on his entire life and existence, that left him with half a body. I was still recovering from listening to a little girl's poem, crying uncontrollably, saying in the poem, "We are children, don't kill us, just don't kill us." And as I looked at Charlotte who was crying and scared, I felt at peace, because I knew she was safe, that she had overwhelming care coming her way from medicine to family to insurance even. I felt grateful that there was no war nearby, that there was a good future for these kids, and that everyone had chipped in to minimize the trauma, and in fact she may even remember it as the first time she learned to have faith in humanity.

For me, I wonder whether all of us should spend a couple of hours every week in an emergency room, consoling where possible, buying tea or food, living inside gratitude and love, for everything we take for granted.