A funny thing happened on the way home from school yesterday...
But let me just say, that at the start of it all I was looking so forward to the getting home part. The day was filled to overflowing with job training, grocery shopping, errand running and that was on the heels of getting three rounds of children off in the morning to their various destinations.
So I headed up to school to pick up my two and the two little boys I drive home each day (stressing that I had someone else's kids in the car with me). The journey home included dropping the older children off at a play practice. It dawned on me as I headed down the hill that I was going to have a complete hour to myself before my youngest came home and I had to pick up the other two from their practice. An hour! Time to catch my breath, have a tea and start the meal for our guests coming to dinner. A sigh of relief escaped me. I felt my insides loosen and my breathing s l o w d o w n.
I stopped at the traffic light and stalled my recently purchased standard car. "I can't believe I did that," I thought. Put in the clutch, into first gear and start the car...start the car...putter...putter...gazed disbelievingly at my gas gauge on empty...OH NO!
My insides clenched along with my teeth and mind and I thought and said "OH NO! Not now!!!" Kids asked "What's going on?" and I had to confess that we'd run out of gas. Now. Here. On the way to drop children in my care at two locations. And everyone will know I messed up.
Isn't that it? When it came down to it, my greatest concern was about what others would think.
I saw Susan coming up behind me and leapt out of my car, ran back to her van and as she rolled down her window I asked her to pull my hair out as it would save me the trouble. She agreed to (but didn't) and asked why. I explained. She said she would drop her van load off and come back. She did, picking up her teen daughter from high-school on the way. Then she loaded the two oldest and delivered them to the practice. I was now with the two boys who aren't mine and them wondering what was going to happen. We had already played a rousing game of I Spy. This now turned into sharing the gum in my purse with littlest boy who said he didn't like it minty but "it's good," he told me in his sweet, squeaky voice. The eldest had already chewed enough that day, he said. We played count the cars, find Susan's van ("I think that's her"..."No"..."Oh, there she is"...."No, again"..."Where is she?"... I started texting her after 20 minutes, not meaning to be pushy but "Are you coming soon? My youngest is going to be home in 15 minutes..."). We'd started a new game of who could count the most of their favorite color of car and she rolled up on the other side of us.
"You won't believe it" she said. She'd gone home to drop her daughters off and her oil light came on. Fearing a seized engine she'd taken the time to top it up. This was becoming a comedy of errors.
We climbed in and she drove the boys to their daycare, where their Mom was now waiting and dropped them off with tales of their adventure; then went to my house to pick up the gas can and my son who had just come off his bus.
To the gas station, back to the car and the incredible continued to unfold.
Susan parked on the side behind my car. I retrieved the gas can, went to fill my tank and open the door to dump my purse in the passenger side. Open the door...my key...not in my pocket....not in my purse....OH NO!!!!!!! I peer in the window and it's in the ignition and all my doors are locked. Of course! We were sitting there waiting, the kids and I. The radio was on sometimes and we were playing games and then Susan got there and we got out and I dutifully locked all the doors and this is BIZARRE!
By this time I was actually in tears, hanging in Susan's window feeling like a complete idiot and we were both shaking our heads and laughing at the incredible story unfolding. So we left the car - again. It was pushed off the road as far as we could get it, but it's front end still stuck out. What else could we do? By then it was time to pick up kids from practice so we just went and got them. AMAZING.
She dropped us off at home and said "If you need a ride back to the car when the tow truck comes, just call." She'd cheerfully driven around on my behalf for an hour and a half without a complaint. That was grace.
So at home I threw the chicken in the oven for dinner, called Frank to pick me up so we could get the car and called CAA who said they'd be there within the half hour. I couldn't reach Frank, but left a message. And when it was time, I hadn't been able to reach anyone, so ate humble pie and called Susan. She was chipper and said she'd be right over. I started walking to meet her on the way. And even that was funny as I crossed the road so she'd see me and I could get in the passenger side. She drove right by as she was looking for me on the other side.
When we got there, the car was gone and there was no sign of the tow truck. But Frank's van was there. He'd been in time for CAA and pulled the car into the parking lot across the road.
We stood on the side and thanked Susan. Frank said "I think I'd better go straight to the gas station. I'm almost on empty!" We laughed in the gathering dusk and relief seeped over me. No tea, no sit down and visitors arriving now. I still had much food prep to do as the groceries had been in the trunk of the car. And I'm sure Susan had an evening of dinner prep and family needs ahead of her too.
But like our Pastor says "It may look like this is what's happening, but God has something else going on."
Within that two hour period, there were moments of grace and the sharing of hearts. There was conversation that wouldn't have happened had we not had this 'not so chance encounter'.