From the desk of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney, Des Moines, Iowa.
The acrid smell of hot tires filled the air, accompanied by the futile roar of my car’s engine and the squeal.
Once-white snow sullied by exhaust fumes and tire rubber sprayed the vehicles behind me in my apartment parking lot.
I rocked my body in the driver’s seat and the car joined my rhythms, but still the rear wheels failed to climb the pile of plowed snow that entombed my car in the space.
Nine inches of snow fell on the city overnight. I knew this trouble well. I bought my car, a 2012 Dodge Charger, because it looks cool.
And it does.
But it handles poorly on snow and ice, especially in the apartment parking lot where the plows clear the main paths but leave small mountains of snow behind the occupied spaces.
I was stuck.
I would be late to my new job that I still struggled to learn. Panic bubbled in my gut.
Then a young woman knocked on my door. She offered to push while I pounded the gas.
She appeared fit, but even the strongest of CrossFit athletes would be at a disadvantage pushing my two-ton car with my girth in the driver’s side.
I suggested she drive while I push. I leaned into the car with my hip, one of the few times my obesity helped. We freed the car in about three hard tries.
I thanked her.
“No problem,” she said.
I went on to work.
The snow melted and refroze over the next few days. A light snow fell one Sunday morning as I made mincing steps to my car.
A voice behind me said, “Did we need more of this?”
I didn’t look up, but grumbled, “No, definitely not.”
I biffed it on a patch of ice hidden by the light snow cover and crashed hard on my right side.
I stayed down for a minute. I wanted to assess if I had broken anything. I had not.
The ground was very slippery in a wide swath around me.
I managed to twist myself around to sit on my butt, but efforts to stand might have reminded observers of a Donald Duck cartoon.
Except one onlooker. I heard a familiar voice in my ear. It was the person who had walked out ahead of me toward the parking lot.
“Are you all right?” she said.
I looked up. It was the same young woman who helped get my car out of the snow a few days before.
She’s apparently been appointed my guardian angel.
“I’ve been better,” I said.
She offered a hand. I worried that my girth would pull her down. I slid over to my car.
I took her hand and used the car to steady myself. I was upright. I thanked her again.
“No problem,” she said.
“I never asked your name,” I said.
“Maddie,” she said.
Maddie, it turns out, is Maddie Smith, a rower on the Drake University Women’s Crew team.
I don’t know how many people would stop to help an obese man who fell on the ice or to push someone out of snow.
But Maddie Smith was there for me twice.
She is from Des Moines and a graduate of Dowling Catholic High School. She is a credit to her faith, family and herself.
We talk a lot about how terrible everything is in the world. This story doesn’t make those things any less true.
But this story does contain one of the few proven remedies for things to improve: unselfish kindness.
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