Paying It Forward

| 2/24/2011 7:58:43 AM

 Many years ago when we were in our early twenties Michelle and I made a move from one city to another. All of our belongings were loaded into a rental trailer and wouldn’t you know it, we got a flat tire on the trailer. It was a Sunday morning on a 4-lane divided highway. Luckily the highway was pretty quiet and we were able to hike across it and then across a field to a house that we had spotted. It was in a fairly isolated spot, so there weren’t many houses to choose from. While Michelle sat and waited with his wife, “John” drove me back to our trailer which meant backtracking to the nearest on/off ramp where he helped me to remove the tire, then drove me to a repair shop where I was able to get the tire fixed, drove me back and helped me put the tire back on, and then took me back to his house to pick up Michelle. All on a Sunday morning. On his day off. How to you repay someone for doing all of that? We certainly didn’t have any money to spare in those days. I vowed then I would remember his kindness and help others whenever I could.

The need to help didn’t become a reality until we moved to the middle of nowhere. Our house is the only one on a 10 km stretch of road. The Kouri’s live about 6 kms to the west and the Gorters live about 4 kms to the east. Ten kilometers is a long distance to walk if your car breaks down. I keep a spare jerry can of gas in the garage that I lend out when people run out of gas. Over the years I have also picked up a number of stranded drivers and it turned out that a lot of them are my neighbors. What better way to meet your neighbors?

gas can 

We are surrounded by an undeveloped provincial park and hunting camps and our house is often the place that men dressed in orange and carrying guns show up when they lose their bearings. Having lost my bearings in the woods myself on occasion I’m happy to help out.

We’ve learned about an interesting aspect of human nature while we’ve been living here. We’ve noticed that people seem to prefer to stop near a dwelling if they have to stop while driving on back roads. Often when I’m outside I’ll hear the sound of a vehicle stopping in front of my house. I might not be able to see it through the bush and trees, but I’ll hear the sound of the motor slowing down and sometimes I’ll even hear the slam of a door or two. I assume that perhaps the driver and passenger are switching places, or someone needed to have a stretch or read a map or whatever. Many people seem to prefer to stop near a dwelling. I guess it’s comforting. I’m at a point now where I rarely investigate because I just assume it’s someone reprogramming their GPS and rather than stopping in the middle of nowhere, they feel more comfortable stopping in sight of my gate.

The other day I was driving back from my neighbours’ place after dropping off the manure trailer. A Jeep full of young women flagged me down.  I’d spent the morning shoveling manure with a wool hat on, so I smelled like a barn and looked like the sort of person you would be wise to avoid. One of the young women asked me how to get to Kingston. When I learned that they were coming back from skiing at Calabogie I realized that they had missed the turn down Highway #38 at Parham, which is a pretty common mistake. We’re about 20 kms from that turn so they were really lost.

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