Christmas Miracle 2: The Bridge

My second Christmastime miracle took place on a concrete bridge on the outskirts of Albany, Georgia in 2010 when I was a volunteer missionary. I was paired up to work with a fellow missionary from Salt Lake City named Alex Maughan. Before we departed, I clearly remember Alex stopping and suggesting that we pray for our safety. This was a valid concern to have as Albany was a particularly rough area. We didn’t know this prayer would come in handy less then twenty minutes after we biked away from our apartment in Leesburg.
As we biked into town, we saw a white man walking across a concrete bridge in front of us so we stopped to talk to him to see if he was interested in learning about our church. We’d been talking with him for ten seconds when we heard some commotion down the bridge. We all turned around and the sight we saw sickened us.
A white van had just screeched passed us with white smoke shooting off of its tires. It was painfully lurching forward, trying in vain to stop before colliding with a green van. What we didn’t realize at the time was that this green van had just collided with another car. “It’s gonna hit,” said the man next to me.
I watched the white van attempt to turn to the left but it was too late and  hit the green van with full force, shattering the back window and imploding the back. The front of the white van shot into the air. Parts of it rained down and gasoline started leaking onto the street. 
Then I heard screeching behind me. Turning around, I saw a gasoline truck barreling straight towards us. I didn’t even bother moving or jumping off the bridge as the gasoline truck was too close. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel all that scared. The truck came to a screeching stop about three yards from the back of my bike tire. 
I suggested to Alex and the man, “Let’s check on the white van to make sure they’re okay.” The three of us ran over and I was relieved to see the two occupants in the white van were physically unscathed. The driver was a young panicked man with wavy brown hair who had just jumped out of the car talking to someone on the phone. The passenger was a young woman with long blonde hair and she was worse off. She was going in an anxiety attack and could not open her door. Thankfully, another driver involved in the accident got the door open, but the young woman was so traumatized she could not even get out. She just sat there and sobbed.
What I saw next touched me. I watched the gasoline truck driver leap out. He wore overalls, a red shirt, and what looked like a train conductor’s hat. To me, he seemed a hardened driver and not a caring person. He brushed past me and walked to this poor young woman in the white van. I watched him literally pick her up on her feet, put his arm around her, and whisper something comforting. He placed her at the edge of the bridge and told her, “Just bury your face in your arms and don’t look around. That will help calm you.” The young woman obeyed and did just that.
I looked around and soon saw this was no small accident; nine cars had been involved. 
I watched several more people come to comfort this young woman. One was a Papa Johns Pizza driver who stopped her car in the middle of the road and ran to talk to this young woman. Another was a female driver involved in the collision; perhaps she was a mother. She put her arm around the young woman, rocked her side to side, and even shed tears with her.
After a few minutes, I walked over to this young woman and asked her, “Ma’am, are you okay?” 
She looked up at me, smiled weakly, and said, “Yes, I am doing better.” Alex and I walked away, both shaken but grateful. As I looked back, I was grateful there were people to take care of that poor young woman. 
That Christmas I was taught two valuable lessons:
  1. Life can be taken and given back to you in any given moment
  2. It is possible for people to forget about their own troubles and focus on one who is struggling.
I still have faith in humanity because of the charity I witnessed on that bridge in Georgia in 2010. I am grateful for my life even if thorns cover it at times because it could have been taken away. Easily I could have been crushed by that gasoline truck or been engulfed in an explosion. Why I was spared that day I don’t quite know. What I do know is that day taught me to love life even more and to realize just how active God is in our lives. 
Have you ever had a scary event take place during Christmastime that helped redefine your life? 
The bridge in Albany today where the story took place. I was standing halfway near the concrete barrier on the right when the crash took place. 

The Power of Compliments

In the summer of 1944, a small city in Virginia, known as Bedford, lost nineteen soldiers on June 6th. These soldiers were killed while storming the beaches in Normandy during the infamous D-Day offensive. One of those soldiers killed in the first few minutes of the invasion left behind a young wife named Ivelyn Schenk. At the time Mrs. Schenk was an elementary school teacher. A month after losing her husband a first grade student named Booker Goggin wrote her a letter.

It read, “Dear Mrs. Schenk, I am sorry to hear about your husband. I wish I could come to see you. I hope you will be my teacher next fall. With love, Booker.” The power of compliments and wishing someone well can change a person’s life forever. Mrs. Schenk later said that Booker’s letter helped keep her going during this difficult time.

With life beginning to speed up for many of us with finals approaching, tax season, and what not, we often pass by those who are suffering like Mrs. Schenk. We have the power to change anyone’s life and many of these actions take only minutes.

For my Public Relations Writing and Production class, the entire class was required to prepare a two to three minute persuasive speech, read it from a teleprompter, and answer thought provoking questions from the class. One of my classmates, Tawny Tanner, gave a persuasive speech on the power of compliments that stuck with me. For her speech, she used a staggering statistic. She said, “The average AT&T user sends 60 texts a day. There are around 8 billion text messages being sent everyday and 92,000 text messages being sent every second.” After sharing that statistic, she stated, “Now, imagine if all of those were compliments.” Think of how much happier our world would be if all 8 billion of those text messages were compliments.

In mid-December of 2010, I was a volunteer missionary for my church in Albany, Georgia. My companion and I were walking up to a house in the poorer part of Albany to see a man we’d talked with previously. As we approached his home, we heard a fiery argument taking place. The man’s wife had just discovered he was cheating on her. You could hear her cussing up a storm, throwing items around the house, and yelling at their yapping dog to be quiet. We watched her storm outside, slam the front screen door, and drop a few more choice words to her husband. The fellow missionary and I stood in the front yard, frozen with terror, not quite sure how to react. This lady saw us, shot us a glare, and demanded to know what we were doing. As I tried to explain to her that we were just visiting, the next thing I remember is the other missionary and I being pushed off the front yard by this lady and a run-down, light blue pickup truck stopped in front of their house. The lady was obviously going with this driver to escape the marital issue at hand for a short time or maybe even permanently. As she was about to hop into the truck, she turned to face us again. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying because she was so upset. When she finally stopped and stood there, glaring at us, I just smiled, waved, and said, “Merry Christmas, m ‘am. Love you.” The lady stopped. I watched tears fill her eyes. Her voice breaking, she quietly said to me, “Merry Christmas to you too, hon. Love you too.” She then hopped in the pick-up truck and we watched it drive away. We never saw her again.

I didn’t share that story to brag about what an amazing person I am but just to show the great power that compliments do have on the lives of those around us. Look for the good that each person possesses. Let them know what you admire about them and encourage them to keep going when they are struggling. Compliments can truly brighten someone’s day when life seems to be nothing but a storm. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a compliment. They are stronger than you may think. Try giving out more compliments than usual to those around you and you will see what I mean. By doing so, you can bring more sunshine into this dark world.