Monday, July 13, started out like a regular wonderful day. I rose extra early, planning to head to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, to visit my mom. The sun shone and I sped towards the Belt Parkway, my favorite highway with the glorious view of sailboats and rippling water. I was grateful for the usual traffic snarl until Exit 17W, which meant more people are back at work and the world is more on a normal schedule. I coasted to the Verrazzano Bridge, admiring the stunning view and thanking Hashem for the ability to go visit my mom in person. My plan was to arrive early enough to take a long walk on the beach.
I stopped at Exit 100 to daven, with still plenty of time before the sun would reach its apex.
I was picturing those purling waves and the velvet sand under my feet. I reached the island in record time and, just at the turnoff towards my mom’s apartment, I noticed a flower store. I had meant to bring flowers for my mother’s friend who has been helping her so kindly, especially now during this quarantine time.
I glimpsed a potted sunflower and decided that would be the perfect thank you gift. I parked and found the gate to the store was locked, so I strolled around to the front where it was open. I noticed other customers had parked there, and the thought crossed my mind that I should have parked there but I was already parked. Later, I regretted that decision.
I purchased a smiley sunflower in a pot and carried it gingerly to my car. I placed it on the floor of the back seat. I closed the door. Visions of my long walk and subsequent visit filled my mind.
I turned on the car and proceeded to drive forward.
Alas, I heard a strange scraping noise like when you run over a garbage can (well, when I’ve run over our garbage can). I kept driving forward hoping to dislodge whatever I’d run over. It didn’t seem to want to dislodge. I turned off the car and took a look underneath. To my horror, I discovered I had dragged the concrete parking marker and it was wedged beneath my car. I took a deep breath and asked Hashem for help. I tried driving forward and backward but the concrete marker wouldn’t budge. I turned the car off again and tried to think of what to do. If I was in New York, I would have called Chaverim (it would have been an embarrassing call but I would have called anyway), but I was on Long Beach Island.
Just then, a man in a white van pulled over and jumped out of his car. “Can I help?” he asked.
“Yes!” I said.
He came over and looked under the car. “Hmmm. Do you have a jack?” he asked.
I didn’t think I did.
He looked in his van but he couldn’t find his jack.
“Let’s look in your trunk,” he suggested.
I opened the trunk and sure enough underneath a covering there was a spare tire and a case with what it turned out was a jack.
He attached it to the wheel. I think that’s what he attached it to. Anyway, amazingly, the car was lifted up enough that he could dislodge the long concrete marker.
He then pulled it out. That took a lot of strength since it was heavy concrete and then he slid it to its proper position.
“I’m so embarrassed,” I said. “I should have seen that.”
“I’ve done it with my truck,” he said. “A truck just goes over it, though. They should have painted it fluorescent yellow. People do this all the time.”
I really doubted that, but it was nice of him to say, and I probably would have run over it even if it was hot pink.
“Drive a little so I can check if it punctured your gas line.”
I did and he said it looked like it was okay.
I thanked him full-heartedly and he smiled and drove away.
I thought to myself, as I drove towards my mom’s apartment: This man saw that someone needed help and he rushed over to help. He did it with no fanfare and he did it in a kind way, reassuring me that it wasn’t my fault and he had even done this type of thing. He showed me that innate goodness – that spark of Hashem that is in every human being.
I thanked Hashem for sending me this messenger. Hashem sends us mal’achim when we need them, and I was so grateful that I merited to have this immediate help.
I drove to the beach and enjoyed a long, wonderful walk by the crashing waves that thrashed and swelled and curled, dancing their wild show just for me.
I glanced at my phone and noticed a text from my husband saying, “I hope your drive to LBI went smoothly.”
Well, I mused. It had its bump, a concrete block bump, but Hashem orchestrated that it did go smoothly and I learned a valuable lesson. Especially now, during the Three Weeks, Hashem is showing me how important it is to reach out to others who need help, to step in and do practical things to help, and also to remember that He is here with each of us every step of the way, sending His messengers to help us grow to be a better person.
May Hashem hasten the coming of Mashiach right now, and may Tish’ah B’Av this year be a real holiday.
By Susie Garber