A columnist will never run out of bad news to comment on – from acts of terrorism to hurricanes, floods, droughts or firestorms, and from the cruelty of men to fellow humans, to the scourge of nature and a deadly pandemic.
But, this time, I would rather write about acts of human kindness and concern, because in this era of violence and divisiveness, there seems to be so few of these heart-warming instances.
Last Saturday night, August 28, I became a beneficiary of such acts. Acts that one can only attribute to Guardian Angels or Good Samaritans. I believe I encountered both.
If you were a writer of action movies and TV shows, as I was in my youth, you could automatically envision an explosion of violence with the following elements thrown together in a cauldron: An 82-year old handicapped Asian man riding a motorized wheelchair. A Latino male. And an African-American woman. A dark street in a part of town notorious for criminality, in a state that has seen a surge of unprovoked attacks on elderly Asians. The time is shortly before 8:00in the evening.
A mugging of the Asian man or a hold-up would be the obvious violent incident to envision. After all, didn’t ex-President Donald Trump characterize Latinos as rapists and killers, and black persons as criminals? And haven’t there been so many violent attacks on elderly Asians across the US?
I live in a peaceful, relatively upscale enclave in Pinole on the Eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area. However, our small town is right next to Richmond, which is listed as the 11th most dangerous city in California.
It really isn’t as perilous as one might think. We have lived in Pinole for almost 22 years and have had no incident. But at night, on a dark street, anything can happen. And something did!
I had just bought a three-wheeled battery-powered scooter (actually a motorized wheelchair) and wanted to see how it would perform on the open road.
Big mistake! It’s only intended for in-house and neighborhood use.
But this hard-headed old man went out anyway to buy stuff at Walgreens, which was a short drive away by car. But it turned out to be too far for my untested vehicle.
My second Big Mistake was driving out after sundown.
At any rate, I was driving along at a brisk pace when the scooter hit a bump on the sidewalk. The vehicle turned over and threw me to the curb.
Almost immediately, a man drove up, got out of his car and rushed to my side. Like the Good Samaritan in the Bible, he helped me get back on my feet and made sure I wasn’t hurt. Miraculously, I wasn’t. Not even a bruise. He also lifted my overturned scooter, and set it right side up.
I thanked him profusely. He asked if I was Filipino. He turned out to be a Latino, but he knew some Tagalog. He most certainly wasn’t the criminal that Trump had characterized Latinos.
When I tried to start the scooter, it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. Third Big Mistake. I should have checked (although I wouldn’t have known how – fourth Big Mistake: never venture out without mastering your equipment).
The Good Samaritan was in a hurry to get home. He left, after making sure that my scooter and I were safely on the sidewalk.
That was when my Guardian Angel took over.
Actually, she was an African-American lady, about 5’-10” in height and in her mid or late 40s (I deduced as much when she told me she had 4 children and the eldest was 25).
She was driving by and had probably seen my scooter turning over. When the Good Samaritan had left, she called out to me.
“Do you need help?” she asked, as she got out of her car.
“You must be my Guardian Angel,” I instinctively replied.
If you believe in Guardian Angels (as I do), they are those loving spirits who are constantly watching out for you and who suddenly appear when you need help.
Over a month ago at a tourist food stop in Hawaii, I lost my balance and fell on my back, on the side of my son’s van where he and the rest of my family could not see me.
In fact, I didn’t think anyone had seen me fall – but as I tried to get on my feet, a young man appeared and lifted me up. He immediately walked away as I was thanking him.
When I told my family about the incident I whimsically said it was probably my Guardian Angel. I tried to spot the young man among the crowd of diners, but failed.
When I was much younger, more hard-headed and adventurous, my Guardian Angel must have been overworked, keeping me safe in many – I mean many – incidents in which people could normally get killed or maimed for life (but those are stories for later).
At any rate, seeing how distressed I was, the black lady offered to give me a ride home. But we could not load the scooter in her small car and I didn’t want to leave it behind. Besides, I insisted on making my way to Walgreens. She said it was still several blocks away – up a hill.
When I said I could push the scooter up the hill and get to my destination “somehow, some way.” That was when she volunteered to do the unbelievable.
After parking her car in a safe place, she told me to mount my scooter. And she pushed the scooter, with me on it, up the hill – for several blocks!
The scooter weighs over a hundred pounds while I weigh 125 pounds. You can just imagine, this lady huffing and puffing as she pushed our combined weight up a hill on a dark Richmond street, with only the dim street lights showing us the way.
After three or four stops to rest, she finally got me and my scooter into the Walgreens parking lot and inside the store.
Then this remarkable lady – whom I kept calling my Guardian Angel – explained my problem to the Walgreens manager. I requested permission to leave my scooter in the store and asked my Guardian Angel, who must have been thoroughly exhausted, if she could give me a ride home.
“I’m not leaving you until I’m sure you’re safe,” she replied.
She then walked several blocks to get her car, drove back, picked me up and brought me home.
Throughout all these, I learned that she had an 80-year old father, afflicted with Alzheimers. She said that I reminded her of her old man and she hoped that by her act of kindness to a stranger, her own father may enjoy the same from others.
I was so touched. I could not thank her enough. As she turned to get into her car, I asked her, “May I hug you?”
We hugged. And she left.
When I related the whole episode to my wife and children, they asked me for the lady’s name and address. Fifth Big Mistake. I forgot to ask.
We recovered my scooter early the next morning. It is working again. This hard-headed 82-year old has learned his lesson. Hopefully no more Big Mistakes (just small ones).
As for you, dear readers, may Good Samaritans come to help you when you need help, and may your Guardian Angels be with you as you make your way through life’s dark and dangerous streets.