My friend and I were driving on a long stretch of empty, rural road.
The day was nearly done. It had been a painful one for my friend.
He was refused a certificate he deserved, one he had worked years for, one that would have brought in work he desperately needed. Then, he had been berated, and cruelly so, in front of people who looked up to him.
Now, he only wanted to be home, which was miles down the long, empty road.
The car was silent. My friend held the wheel with tired hands. His eyes were powerless and lifeless. He seemed displaced. Maybe he’ll go to bed, I thought, toss the day in the trash and wake up the next morning, hopefully not too embittered.
Then, without warning, my friend turned the car off the road.
What are you doing? I asked.
That man needs a jack to change his tire, my friend pointed out his window to a man pulled over up ahead. The man looked helpless and scared.
My friend got a jack from the trunk. The two men lifted up the car together alongside the long, empty road. They swapped out the tires, lowered the car back to earth, and the man drove off with a wave.
Why? I asked when my friend got back in the car. You had a terrible day. Why mess around with someone else’s heartaches when you have enough of your own?
My friend turned to me. His eyes were lit up. Because it makes me feel better, he said like a man who had found his place in the world again.
So, this would not be a day to toss in the trash. Or to carry pain in distant, dark places. This would be a day to let your pain – your tender, tender pain – break your heart open wider to the pain outside your window.
And when my friend woke up the next morning, he would feel many things. But embitterment wouldn’t be one of them.