Dropping my defenses
A driving accident during my morning commute had unexpected consequences
By Scia Padayhag
I have a long morning commute, and if everything goes well, it takes about an hour. But part of my drive is on a busy highway where accidents are frequent, so I have to be very attentive.
One day I had already exited the highway, so I thought I was home free. I had been focusing my day by listening to a Word of Life meditation about being vigilant, and how in doing so, we can be sure we are always attentive to love our neighbors as Jesus.
Suddenly, I saw the car on my left coming right toward me! I could tell we were going to crash, but I didn’t even have time to honk or react. Boom.
“Oh no,” I thought, “This is the last thing I need right now!”
As we pulled to the side of the road, I was already building my defense to make sure he and our insurance companies would know I had no blame in this; it was all his fault.
But when I glimpsed this older man’s face, something about him looked familiar. He looked lost. I’m a nurse at a clinic that treats patients suffering from dementia, and his confused look reminded me of them.
This accident stopped me and helped me to remember what I had been listening to just minutes earlier: be vigilant, love. Who knew what he was going through?
I no longer felt defensive. Instead, when I got out of my car, my first reaction was to ask if he was okay. He was, but he was worried that he would be late for an appointment at the hospital and said his wife was going to be very angry. As we talked, he shared that he had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.
I couldn’t imagine how he would have felt, already facing such a struggle, if I had immediately started blaming him instead of caring. Yes, my car door was dented and scratched and would have to be fixed, but my focus was on him now.
We called the police to report the accident and then started exchanging insurance information. I saw his last name looked Italian. It was, he said. And I explained how my card did not have my name but the word “Focolare” — the name of the community I am part of that began in Italy.
So we started chatting about Rome, about Italy, about my community and his cancer treatments. It was a much deeper conversation than I would have expected considering the circumstances.
When the policeman arrived, he was surprised to see we had everything under control, so he let us go quickly.
Before leaving, the man gave me a hug and thanked me. “Today I made a new friend,” he said. I was grateful for the Word of Life that helped this moment be a meeting with Jesus in my neighbor, and I realized that when God sends people our way, it is not by chance.
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