A nice car stalls in traffic. Horns honk. People shout. Four Mexican men leap out of a dilapidated minivan. They push the broken down vehicle from a busy intersection.
In the front seat: Jocelyn. A seventy-three-year-old woman.
When she is out of harm’s way, one of the men says something in English:
“You need a ride, ma’am? We’ll take you wherever you wanna go.”
They drive her home, across town. She offers to pay for their gas. They decline. She offers to feed them. They accept.
Years later, Jocelyn dies. At her funeral, Jocelyn’s daughter sees a group of unfamiliar Mexican men.
They tell her the story I just told you.
Chase. He is middle-aged and clumsy. He has the idea to repair his own roof. Bad idea. He climbs on the house while his wife is away.
He loses his footing. He trips. The shrubs break his fall—and his leg.
A neighbor’s fourteen-year-old son sees the accident. The boy calls 911, then performs first-aid. The kid even rides to the hospital inside the ambulance with him.
When Chase awakens, there is a boy, sitting at his bedside, mumbling a prayer.
“Called your wife,” says the kid. “I found her number in your phone.”
That boy is an adult now, and and he is one of Chase’s closest friends.
There’s a girl. I’ll call her Karen. As a child, she was abused by her father. Karen leaves the details out when she tells me the story. Karen left home when she was old enough to drive. She drove six states away and tried to forget her childhood altogether.
And she did. One divorce and two kids later, things were looking up. She had a job managing a cellphone store, a nice apartment.
Her aunt called one day. Her father was sick. Stomach cancer was eating him from the inside out.
“Why the hell should I care?” was Karen’s first response.
She didn’t sleep for a week thereafter.
She packed her children and belongings into a Ford Escort and drove six states toward a hole she used to call home.
Her father was gaunt and poor. He needed in-home care, but couldn’t manage to make it happen.
She moved her family into his spare bedroom. For nearly two years she cooked meals, washed clothes, bathed him, and helped him use a toilet.
And days before his end, his words were:
“You must be some kinda angel or something. How can you possibly give a $%*& about someone like me?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “Because I love you.”
He asks Karen to forgive him.
So the news is blaring on a television in my room. It’s been playing the same sort of thing for five days. Men in suits, shouting at one another. Footage of one man punching another. Swearing. Pharmaceutical commercials. Politics. Pop music. The Kardashians.
A news commentator remarks, “Our world is in serious trouble, folks.”
Serious trouble. Well, maybe it is. Lord knows, I don’t have the credentials to refute that.
Maybe the end of the world is near. Maybe our civilization will only last a few days before going up in flames. Maybe hatred will finally conquer the world. Maybe the angry mob wins. Maybe there is no hope for this planet we call home. Maybe.
But I don’t believe it.
And I won’t.
Not after meeting Karen.