Last week I took my older son, my middle child Ben out to lunch. His preschool got out a little early, and we had a few hours until we had to return to relieve my sitter who was watching his younger brother. I told him we were going on a mother-son lunch date; he chose the restaurant.
We had a nice little time, me and Ben, but then had to get back to our car so we wouldn't be late--I was trying to hurry without rushing. And as we walked into the parking garage towards our car, a little old Asian lady was shuffling up the ramp. She paused to catch her breath. She did not look well.
"Are you okay? Can I help you with anything?" I immediately asked.
In sweetly accented English, while still breathing hard, she explained: She couldn't find her car. She had walked around a half dozen times and was confused, tired, worried.
"Come with us," I said. "I'll drive you around until we find your car."
This invitation shocked her, but she gratefully said yes. She patiently waited alongside my car as Ben climbed into his seat and I pushed the mess that is always in my passenger seat in my whale-of-a-car Suburban. Ben, normally on the high side of chatty, was wide-eyed and quiet, in disbelief that this woman, a stranger, was about to climb into our car.
But climb in she did. And we drove around the 3d section of the parking garage, where she swore she parked, looking for her gold Honda. In between "thank you's" and "I can't understand where my car is" I assured her that we would find her car and she would be on her way soon.
Less than ten minutes later, we solved the mystery. Her car was not in that garage; she'd been walking around in circles for way too long in the wrong one of three parking garages. It was in the garage right next to it, in the 3d section that she had remembered. As she carefully climbed out of my tall car, she thanked me for my kindness. She was so surprised by it, still. "I'm so glad I could help," I replied with a smile.
As we drove back into our regular path on this regular day, I looked in my rear view mirror at Ben, my nearly 5 year old. I knew his head was about to burst with questions and observations.
"Ben," I said, "We just rescued that little old lady from a bad situation. She needed help, and we could help her. I know that she is a stranger, and I invited her into our car, but I looked at her and really thought about it and realized that she couldn't hurt us, and that she needed us."
I continued. "But really, I have a question for you. When you are old enough to drive, when you are a grown up just like me, and you're going about your busy day and you see a little old lady who can't find her car and she's tired and she's confused and she's a little scared, what will you do?"
Ben smiled. "Stop and help her."
I think he will. I really think he will.