“Things happen for a reason” is a saying I do not agree with.
I grant you that events occur due to a cause or series of causes (also known as a “reason”), but I do not subscribe to the notion that “things happen” because they were fated to transpire in that (and only that) specific manner.
And yet, I have stories like this that make me doubt.
This is my story.
When I was in the fifth grade, there was a time during the start of that scholastic year that I was part of a carpool that took me to my elementary school. My school was close enough that I could ride my bicycle, but my parents felt it might be safer for me to initially go by car because of the busy roads I would have to cross.
On one particular Tuesday, I did not go with the carpool. I had agreed to volunteer with an upcoming carnival and I was set to paint signs and generally attempt to be helpful. As this assistance would be after school, I would have to miss the carpool. I rode my bike to school and successfully navigated most of the obstacles and roads I had to cross.
At school, I found out I had written down the wrong date to help out. Volunteers for the carnival were supposed to show up on the Thursday, not Tuesday.
Riding back from school, I was berating myself for not being able to comprehend my abbreviations. Is it my fault that “T” can stand for both Tuesday and Thursday? Once I create my society, I will mandate that all days of the week have different first letters.
As I made the turn on to my own street, it was as if I could hear myself calling for help to cure me of my absent-mindedness. However, I wondered, why would the voice in my head be female?
It dawned on me that I was actually hearing someone call for help.
I stopped my bicycle and began calling back. The voice continued to call for help as I homed in on it. I finally came to a wooden gate leading into a backyard. I had passed by this house many times before and seen the couple that lived there every once in a while. I think I even recalled that their last name was something like Farber or Feldspar. I slowly opened the gate and espied a long, narrow concrete walkway with a thin vegetable garden planted by a brick wall. Sprawled on her back on the walkway was an older woman. As I was in seventh grade, “older” was a relative term for me and she could have been anywhere from twenty-five to sixty-five (although I found out later she was fifty).
“Uh…hello?” I called from the gate.
The woman turned her head and exclaimed, “Oh, thank goodness!”
“Are you okay?” I asked apparently thinking that was absolutely normal for a woman to be on her back staring up at the clouds while in a gardening outfit.
“No,” she replied. “I slipped and I think my hip is broken. Can you help me, please?”
I entered the backyard and approached the fallen woman.
My mind was furiously trying to figure out how I could help her. Do I set the leg? What can I use for splints? Do I move her? Do I leave her?
She interrupted my internal triage by asking, “Could you be a dear and phone the fire department?”
This was the days before 9-1-1 was ubiquitous so I walked into her kitchen and next to the phone was a sticker with all the emergency phone numbers. I called the fire department and did my best to explain the situation of a woman in need.
“What is your address?” the person on the other end of the line asked.
“It’s about ten houses down from where I live,” I explained (not so) helpfully.
“Can you ask the woman what her address is?” the dispatcher asked.
For a person with a possibly broken hip and who had a sore throat from calling for help, she was more than patient with me than one would have expected. After I hung up with the fire department, she asked if I could call her husband.
I phoned his office and a gruff voice answered.
“Is this Mr. Farmer?” I asked (after I had received the correct surname from the injured woman).
“Yes. Who’s this?” he asked back, probably curious why such a young squeaky voice would be calling him.
“My name is Brian and I’m calling from your home. Your wife asked me to call you. She had an accident. She’s okay. I called the fire department and they’re coming. Your wife asked if you could come home.”
“I’ll be right there,” he said quickly before hanging up.
I went back to Mrs. Farmer and we chatted while we waited for the emergency crew to arrive. She told me that she had been calling out for about an hour and was starting to become tired. I explained to her that it was just dumb luck that I happened to be on my bicycle. Had I been in my carpool, I never would have heard her.
When the fire truck and paramedics arrived, I made my way out of the backyard, hopped back on my trusty two-wheeled steed, and left without either of us saying good-bye.
I returned home and my parents asked how the volunteering went. I told them of my mistake and so they pressed me on where I had been since I was home so late. I nonchalantly related to them my adventures in Mrs. Farmer’s backyard as if saving damsels in distress was just the kind of thing that happens to me.
That’s my story.
P.S. If you would like to hear the gift the Farmers gave to me and what happened to it…well, that’s a story for another day.