The Woman at the Reception Desk

There's a lot of bad news these days. But sometimes something happens that pierces all that negativity and reminds you of people's potential for goodness and deepens one's belief in humanity. It happened to me just the other day.

My car was towed from outside my gym. I had arrived at 5:30 a.m. for a workout, checked the four different signs about when I could park in the spot I took, and then came back at 7 a.m. to go to work. It was one of those surreal experiences: all the cars that I thought had parked where I had were gone! Had I actually parked someplace else and just forgot where? I walked back over to the set of parking signs and discovered a fifth -- the one I missed -- stating that towing started at 6:30 a.m.

I called the number on the sign which connected me to our local police station; but they had no record of my car being towed. They said call back in 30 minutes. So I waited awhile and then decided to go into the condominium building next to where my gym is located, where I asked the woman behind the reception desk if she had seen my car towed. Nope, she had just come on at 7 a.m.

But before I could turn away, she said, "Let me call the police station for you." I said I already tried that, but she picked up the phone and called anyway. Knowing the ropes, she actually found someone who would talk with her. Still, they didn't know where my car was.

Again I started to turn away, and again she said, "Well, I know a lot of the towing companies that tow around here, and so let me call one for you." She called Eastham's down the street, a service station that I thought had gone out of business, but apparently was now towing cars. I could walk there. But no luck.

So, again, I thanked her and started to turn away. And she said, "Oh no, don't go. I know some others I can call." So she looked up the number for G&G Towing, a company that had towed me some years ago, and whose lot is in some God-forsaken place up-county. (The problem there would be my wallet was in my car and I had no money to take a cab.) Again, no luck.

She told me not to despair, while she looked up another towing company's number (one she had never heard of) and called it. This time it worked. They said my car had been towed to a street in town that neither of us had heard of. So she started to give me directions from the person on the phone, and then said, "Wait!" She pulled up Map Quest on her computer, printed me out a map, and proceeded to give me directions to get started so I wouldn't get lost!

All this took over twenty minutes. The whole time she had a smile on her face and when I kept thanking her for her help she repeatedly replied, "Oh, of course I should help you."

I did find my car and go to work that day. Since then I haven't forgotten this woman behind the reception desk who could have just as easily said she hadn't seen my car towed and that she had her own work to do. But she didn't. Instead, she extended herself, to a total stranger in need, with a helping hand and an abiding sense of grace. Before I turned to walk away, I grabbed both her hands hand and thanked her, and the only words that came to my lips were: "Many blessings to you."

Amid all the bad news there is good news too. Sometimes we have to look for it. Sometimes we benefit from it. Other times we can help to create it.

Tomorrow I'm bringing the woman behind the reception desk flowers, and I'll ask her name.