It happened a couple of weeks ago. At about three o’clock in the afternoon, having been pretty much confined to my office for several hours, I ventured to the front lobby to find a woman sitting in one of the comfortable chairs. I asked her if I could help her and she began to explain her plight.
Her name was Donna. She was visiting Nashville from Florida. Seems her husband was in town on business and Donna came along for the ride—ostensibly to see what the “IT” city was all about. She said she was waiting for a tow truck to help pull her car out of what she overstated as a mud pit. Just east of the Post Road and Davidson Road 4-Way Stop, she had had a flat tire and pulled the car off the road. The car was a rental and so she called the rental company who promptly came out and put the spare on—one of those temporary “donut” spares that look like they are better suited for a bicycle than a car.
The rental car folks drove away leaving Donna just off the side of the road. As she began to try and reverse her car from off the road, the donut tire began to spin. It couldn’t get any traction. Pretty soon she had spun a solid track of mud and the car was immobile. There was simply no way that car was ever going to back out of that spot.
So Donna made her way across the street to us. She was warmly greeted and welcomed, I later learned, which came as no surprise at all. What I didn’t realize when I made my way to the lobby at 3:00 was that Donna had been sitting in the lobby for nearly three hours waiting for help. Robert came out of his office and we offered to walk down with her and assess her situation. Her car was, indeed, just a few feet off the road and pointing mostly toward the white fence out in front of her. That little stretch of land is basically flat with just a gentle slope from the road.
Donna was clearly frazzled by having to wait for so long. I asked her if I could borrow her keys. She responded, “Trust me, there is no way you can back that car out of there—I tried many times.” I said, “I’m going to try going forward.” Now, if you had seen her situation, you would know there was nothing “zen-like” in my response to her. I simply put the car in drive, rolled forward a few feet and then turned the car back up onto the street. It took all of 15 seconds.
The look on her face was a mixture of joy, surprise, and embarrassment. She was so very grateful and also dreading to explain to her husband what had happened. I suggested maybe that could just be our secret.
Afterward upon reflection, this was something of a living parable for me. Here was a person who found themselves in a situation for which they could only imagine one solution. When that solution failed, they became paralyzed. I’ve known countless people in my life who have been in that same boat (or car). I’ve been there, too. Maybe the “moral” of this parable is that when you feel paralyzed by your situation because the only solution you can muster has failed, maybe you reach out to someone else who has a very different perspective—someone who isn’t already frazzled by the circumstances.
The next day, Donna appeared at our door again carrying a large goodie basket for the staff as a sign of her appreciation. That, of course, wasn’t necessary, but then again it served to close the episode in a positive way for her. She needed to say “thank you” whether or not we needed her to say it.
Her last word to us before she left was, “your church saved me”.
There MUST be a parable in there somewhere, too.