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Blow out on the Plains: A Lesson in Kindness



The noise kept ratcheting up. I ignored it until I couldn’t.


I was crossing eastern Colorado on Interstate 70 with my wife Linda when a storm began to hammer our windshield.


Hail?


It kept getting louder.


The sinking feeling in my stomach sent a message to my brain. “Peter, the source of the noise isn’t outside the vehicle, it is the vehicle!”


“Shit.” I spit out. “We’ve got a blowout.”


The last place anyone wants to be is in a squat position on an interstate highway with semis barreling down your back. Every second you fumble with the jack and Mother-Mary-please-help-me-loosen-these-f’ing-lugnuts is another you flirt with death.


I got the nuts loose. I huffed and puffed, pulled and kicked as hard as I could but I couldn’t get the tire off the wheel.


The moment I threw up my hands in defeat, a tow truck pulled over onto the shoulder behind our car.


Two beefy guys climbed out of the cab and walked towards us. After a couple of whacks with a metal mallet, the shredded tire was knocked free.


Our rescuers installed our temporary spare and then escorted us down the road five miles in the driving rain to the nearest garage. Within an hour, we were on our way west.


It was then I realized that the tow truck had brought me a teachable moment. David Brooks in his September 2023 essay in the Atlantic Monthly writes, "Why have Americans become so mean? I was recently talking with a restaurant owner who said that he has to eject a customer from his restaurant for rude or cruel behavior once a week - something that never used to happen."


Maybe David Brooks is right.


However, I cannot shake the memory of the two men who came to our aid. Back on interstate 70 heading west the sinking feeling in my gut was replaced by a song in my heart: For all the kindness still in our world, thank you.

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