For Sean & Lisa, and Gina & Jonny
For Sean & Lisa, and Gina & Jonny
The snow just kept falling, with no end in sight. The plows made a herculean effort, but it was impossible to keep up with the blizzard.
As the snow finally tapered off the second evening, I climbed into my Volkswagen Beetle and headed into the dark of night. I needed to retrieve a college-going daughter who had weathered the storm in Newington.
I’m a good snow driver, so I viewed my excursion as an adventure. Okay, I was rather cavalier about the whole thing. When locals complain about winter driving, I’ve been known to sneer with contempt, "What’s the problem? This is New England! It snows."
I took the "storm route" out of the neighborhood – a longer, flatter route that avoids the steep hills of East Glastonbury. The secondary roads were mostly passable, if not exactly plowed, and the silent streets painted a winter wonderland.
I made my way to Route 2, then Route 3 over the Putnam Bridge. What I failed to negotiate, however, was the slight curve where the Route 3 highway turns into a local road. And that local road was not plowed.
My Beetle hit snow that was deeper than the car’s underbelly, sending me into a skid. I was driving slowly so there was no real danger. It’s just that when my adorable Beetle came to a stop, I was stuck in unplowed snow, facing the wrong direction.
I turned on my flashers, grabbed a shovel, and set to shoveling out the snow under and around the car.
What was noteworthy was that, as I shoveled, the driver of a small pickup truck slowed, stared for a moment, then continued on his way. Mind you, I was stranded in a blizzard on a deserted road. It seemed like a sorry state of affairs for a motorist to drive on by.
Fortunately, the next motorist stopped, and after confirming that the Beetle has front-wheel drive, the man and I quickly rocked my car out of the snow. I said a sincere thank-you and headed on my way. As I drove off, I noticed that another man had just pulled over as well. I rolled down my window, thanked him for stopping, and made an uneventful trip to Newington and back.
The episode got me thinking about something a cousin once said: In Vermont, it is considered bad form to pass a stranded motorist without stopping to help.
Bad form. It means that an action is unbefitting, unbecoming or unseemly, like chatting as a golfer is teeing off. It’s not immoral; it’s just not right.
If a runner is suffering in blistering heat and I do not offer the water bottle that’s sitting in my back seat, how exactly do I think the guy is going to recover? If a struggling family needs winter jackets and I do not provide them, how exactly do I think they will stay warm?
Ah, but there’s the rub. I don’t think about it at all, because I do not view it as my problem.
It’s a struggle that’s as old as Adam and Eve. When their son Cain murdered his brother Abel, God asked Cain, "Where is Abel, your brother?" Cain flippantly replied, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" In other words, "Is he my problem?"
The inferred answer, of course, is yes, you are your brother’s keeper. He is your problem.
Many centuries later, Jesus told the story of a man who was savagely beaten and robbed along the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Two religious leaders walked right past the injured man without stopping; it was the outcast Samaritan who gave him aid. The hero in Jesus’ story was not a religious guy; it was he who helped his neighbor in need.
Back to the stranded motorist; surely, there are legitimate reasons to not stop, including physical limitations, safety concerns, children in the car or inability to be of any help. One must use good judgment. But this is not so much a tutorial on driving etiquette as it is a plea to care for those around us.
Am I my brother’s keeper? Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am, and you are. To pass by a brother or sister in need is bad form. It’s not immoral; it’s just not right.
"I tell you, whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me." Jesus, ca. 33 A.D.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.