People often say that we can’t know when disaster, in the form of an illness, an accident, or a painful and heart-rending loss, will abrupt into our lives. These are all open to the mystery of life and the unforeseen that is part of our daily round.
But the same can be said about acts of kindness and perhaps more to the point of this recollection, acts of honesty. We do not know when either an act of kindness or a display of honesty or courage will descend on us nor how we will respond to such a surprising moment. So here is the story.
It was a day like any other when I headed to Das Rec to swim laps and enjoy a hot shower. I felt good about getting back into the water after two weeks of travel where no pools were available. When I finished, showered and headed out to my truck parked close to the entrance, a rare find for me, all seemed joyfully ordinary as I prepared to head home.
As I approached my truck I noticed a man standing on the curb where some trees were planted. I assumed that he might be waiting for a ride to pick him up. I did not believe I knew him, but the friendly atmosphere at Das Rec encourages all of us to speak to one another and perhaps even discover a new friend in the mix. So I said that the weather was warm and made it easier for us who took showers inside to avoid getting a chill, or some such innocent observation.
He in turn asked me if the black truck we were now both close to was mine. I replied that it was and noticed as I walked toward the driver’s door that there was a folded yellow piece of paper under the wiper blade. As I reached to remove it from the truck, the man told me he had written it because he had hit the front of my truck when he pulled into the parking space next to me. But, he went on, “I felt that leaving my name, telephone numbers and a note that I had hit your truck’s front end was not good enough, so I decided to wait until whoever owns it came out so I could tell the owner directly.” I stood there amazed at what was unfolding before me through this man’s admission — not a confession, really — but more akin to an observation that this event had happened and he postponed his day to report it.
My first response was gratitude; I thanked him for the effort he had made, in writing the note, and then staying to meet whoever’s vehicle had been damaged so he could tell them in person. This time I was that “them.”
We then both shared how we had each, in the past, had our respective vehicles pinged, dented, scraped or otherwise damaged by a desperado who immediately or clandestinely or both, drove off, leaving the wounds of their carelessness or recklessness or heedlessness there to be patched and paid for by the owner of the vehicle. Easier that way —not so messy. And not so honest.
But this man...we soon realized, we lived on the same street, but had only spoken once before. So we “knew” one another only in a very superficial way. And the damage? Well, not terrible, that is to say, nothing that several hundred dollars at a collision shop off of I-35 could not remedy or restore.
But that is not what was restored here. What was reinstalled for me was the generous and thoughtful individual who could have gone and parked somewhere else after the hit, with no one else the wiser.
I keep this incident and this man in my imagination as a gesture of honesty and courage to assist and guide me when I grow dark about the self-centeredness around me, or when I despair at times over the display of some of our less admirable human tendencies.
This man had redeemed them and in the process I scraped against real honesty that was as refreshing and renewing as any scraping and repainting of my truck, which enjoyed its own front-end restoration. With his permission I now name him: Fred Faris, a beacon of integrity and a model doing what is right.