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The Crash Next Door

It was raining when I dropped off my youngest at preschool today. I smiled at the sight of her holding her teacher’s hand and walking into the building wearing the little yellow ducky raincoat that her big sister used to wear. It feels unfair how fast memories of the preschool years fade.

On my way home, the rain eased, with small drops becoming almost misty. I turned onto our street, reaching one of the few stop signs in town before passing the little playground with the red slides and big tire swing. Coming down the hill where the train tracks cross, I soon approached the spot where a young woman, earlier this year, veered off the road into a ditch, hitting a tree and rolling her car several times.

I remember that day very clearly. Miraculously, the girl came out of her car with only minor wounds. Driving past today, I remembered it was upon coming home when I saw her old silver SUV turned over in the ditch not far from my driveway. I had parked in my garage, secured my tiny one into her stroller with crackers to keep her content, and walked over to the accident site.

I came up to the frightened girl, sitting in the grass, brown hair pulled back, and I handed her a bottle of water. Assessing her quickly, I saw she was not seriously hurt, and greeted other neighbors who had come to help. Then, I began picking up pieces of shattered glass from the grass and placing them into a grocery bag from my stroller, while we awaited guidance from the police.

Today, the road was empty. I was the only driver on it, and the mark on the tree where it was struck was wet with light rain. The day of the accident, the road was dry, and the sky was clear.

The accident was recorded on my neighbor’s trail camera, and we had watched it together that afternoon, looking to see if there was something that clearly caused it. There was nothing. It was eerie to see the car, alone, suddenly striking the tree and rolling like a whale flipping before crashing back into the sea. Even though we knew the end result, I found myself gasp and my hand over my open mouth.

“What caused the crash?” the officer arriving to the scene wanted to know. The young lady couldn’t say. She thought, perhaps, she got distracted, though she wasn’t using her phone. She was sober and clean. All she knew was she suddenly felt she might hit a mailbox, and so she swerved, overcompensating.

When I drive by there now, which happens many times each week, I often think of her and of the accident. I am glad she is ok and that nobody else was involved in the crash. And I feel grateful each time I arrive safely back home, thankful to have gotten my children safely off to school, and to have been able to enjoy the drive peacefully, aside from the occasional bickering within the back seat.

It is things like this— a sudden break in the expected— that make me feel deeper appreciation for daily moments. For that beautiful tree, even. For the ability to drive a car and travel and see far away places. For health and safety, and for neighbors who care and for a kind officer and a quick, capable tow trucker driver. The young lady herself was so apologetically worried the man whose property she landed upon would be angry about his tree and grass. Knowing this man, I assured her he would only be happy to know she was safe.

That’s another thing I am, grateful for: Her, thinking of him after what she had been through— a good hearted girl. Kindness shows up in chaos. We gather in distress. And when the calm returns, we are left with an opportunity to grow our gratitude.

In some ways, we can all relate to the young lady. Perhaps you have experienced a crash like hers, or you were on the other end of it. Maybe it was some other significant experience in your life that you still remember and think about that brings you a very big feeling of gratitude for where you are today and all that you have in your life. How long has it been since then, and do you still feel as grateful?

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