One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"When you have to call 911, it's officially not a normal day." January 24, 2013

Preface:  The holiday season is over and people are back to their normal busy lives.  Our hearts seem to be more aware and open and looking for ways to contribute to making the world a better place around the holidays.  But people are in need all day, every day.  I encourage you to keep your eyes open.  Look for opportunities to interrupt your daily life and help someone else.  A friend.  A stranger.  Anyone.  Just be purposeful about it.  You will be a better person for it.  And it will change your life.

“When You Have To Call 911, It’s Officially NOT A Normal Day…”

I was describing my crazy morning to a fellow friend and teacher this morning when we finally got the kids to our home school coop.  We left the house 15 minutes late, which was not a big deal, but adds a little stress to my day. 

We left late for the usual reasons.  I have been so busy the last 3 months that I’ve been averaging about 6 hours of sleep. Exhausted, I missed my alarm and slept 37 minutes late.  We couldn’t find shoes for my 5-year-old, who has suddenly outgrown every shoe in the house.  My now 13-year-old was enjoying her new birthday outfits and was leisurely enjoying a bowl of cereal, forgetting her morning chore to feed the baby his cereal.  My 9-year-old was who knows where.  Two of my boys wet their beds and we had to strip sheets, blankets and clothing – as well as take a bath to rid ourselves of the urine smell.  I forgot to read with my 6-year-old last night, so we had to do it this morning so she could take her comprehension test. The baby just learned to stand in his crib, but hasn’t yet figured out how to get down – so he’s taken to screaming for help.  But as soon as we put him down, he gets back up and needs help again. 

All this was in addition to the usual task of getting 9 kids ready and out of the house by 8:00 a.m. – fully dressed for public consumption. 

Anyway, I looked at my gas gauge as we got in the car and realized it was on empty. Of course.  I’m late and have no gas.  Figures.  But the light hadn’t yet come on – telling me I have exactly 25 miles to go or I will find myself stranded on the road.  I felt comfortable that I had enough to get the kids to school 15 miles away.

I was wrong.  Or the gas gauge was broken.  It doesn’t matter. 

While waiting at a light on a steep hill, the engine suddenly died.  I tried to restart it and it wouldn’t crank.  I looked and the low fuel light wasn’t on.  But experience told me that the odds were good that it was a simple problem.  No gas. I had just passed a gas station at the bottom of the hill and I knew I couldn’t just sit where I was without getting hit.

So, with 7 kids in my car, I carefully coasted backwards down the steep hill – stopping when cars started to drive up the hill.  No one around me seemed to notice or care that a 15-passenger van full of children was coasting backwards down the mountain on a busy road.  Not one car (of about 100) even slowed down, except to go around me in frustration. 

The kids were perfect.  They didn’t make a peep – sensing how dangerous the situation really was.    

Anyway, I get to the bottom of the hill and I’m literally 300 feet from a gas pump.  But I can’t push my car alone and I can’t get myself or the kids out of the car without  being mowed over by the cars flying past our stranded car. 

I also can’t get a gas can and bring it back to the car without leaving the kids in the car, which scares me because I was afraid we might get rear-ended.  I couldn’t prevent that, but I didn’t want the kids to be alone if that did happen. And still not one person stopped. 

10 minutes into the ordeal and no one thought it was important enough to even ask if they could help.  I decided my only choice was to call 911.  So I did.

This triggered memories of a life-changing car accident when I was about 21-years- old.  I was on a busy 6-lane highway and had been hit head on by a drunk driver.  Not one person stopped to help me.  It was almost more traumatizing than the accident itself – watching as car after car simply drove around me as I sat bleeding and broken, pinned into the car.  

Ironically, it was two men from the gas station across the street that finally got me out. 

Since then, I make it a point to stop to at least ask if a person needs help if I see anyone alone.

And in a serious accident, if I’m the first on the scene I stop and stay until help arrives, even if just to direct traffic or calm a person.  I have been the first on the scene at 3 major accidents in the past few years.  I’m trained in first aid and CPR, but these accidents were far too serious for my skills.

Two involved a person pinned under a car.  One man died while his wife and children watched. I could not help the man, but I stayed with the women’s children for almost 5 hours in her car while they retrieved her husband’s body.

One involved a pregnant woman and her 3 children who were side swiped by a semi when his tire blew.  Two of those times my own car was full of children, who waited patiently and stayed in their seats while I did what I could just so the person wouldn’t be alone.

And I would hope that someone would do this for me or my family.  I don’t know if anyone stopped and stayed with my daughter Heather when she had her car accident in Texas.  I know someone called 911, but I don’t know if they stopped.  She  was presumably killed instantly in the accident when she hit a concrete pole and broke her neck, so she wouldn’t have known the difference.  But it would make me feel better to know that someone … anyone… would deem it important enough to step out of their comfort zone and stop their lives long enough to at least check on her.

In my mind, nothing I’m doing is more important than making sure these people have someone with them.  Even if I can do nothing but stand there and wait.

So, when people don’t stop for me, it hurts again.  It says to me that the world is too busy to notice or care.  And that simply doesn’t feel very good. 

As the police officer arrives from one direction, another car has worked its way around me to pull into the gas station. I thought they would ignore me too.  But much to my surprise two gentlemen get out of their vehicle and ask if they can help.  I saw the police officer heading my way, but I knew he couldn’t help me alone. 

I gladly accepted their help.  Without hesitation, these two employees of the Royal car dealership across the street first pushed my car using their bodies and then with their car, while the policeman watched.  When I got close to the pump, and they had to use their bodies to push me again, they didn’t hesitate.  They got out of their car and pushed my car right up to the pump. 

Twenty dollars worth of gas later, my car magically started. 

Donating 5 minutes of their time, and a lot of brute strength, these two men restored my faith and turned what could have been a bad experience into one worth writing about.

I didn’t have any money to pay them.  I didn’t have any gift or trinket to give them.  I could only give my thanks, over and over again.  Telling them that they are the only ones who stopped and offered help.  And that that meant a lot to me. 

When I told my friend a much shorter version of this story as we were heading to class, she said, “It looks like you’ve already had a pretty rough day.”

I laughed it off and said, “Actually, this is pretty normal.”  I didn’t mean this exact situation is normal, but the reality of raising 21 children means my normal isn’t very normal for anyone else.

Marla looked at me and stated rather adamantly, “When you have to call 911, it’s officially not a normal day.”

All I could do was laugh.  She is right.  Calling 911 takes even my days out of the range of “normal.”


  1. Wow. So glad someone finally stopped. Thank you for that reminder- to pay better attention to folks who may be in need of help! I

  2. Anna, I always try to stop, too. I stopped on Lakeshore last year when I saw one car ram into another, and it ended up being two college students who were both completely shocked and petrified. I called 911, made sure their cars were in Park, got the kids over into a driveway so that if their cars were hit (it was dark), they wouldn't be in them and be injured. No one else stopped, but the police did finally arrive. Neither of the kids were local, and the first people they both called on their cell phones were their parents in other states. They were just scared. I hate to think that they would have just sat there alone if I hadn't stopped. I'm proud of you for always doing what's right (although I'm not surprised). :-)

  3. Katherine. I'm so glad you stopped. I know they are grateful, even if they never learned your name. And you remember that story as much as they do because helping others Is rewarding in and of itself. So, in part, I guess I help for selfish reasons!!

    Lisa, hero is a pretty big word. I appreciate the compliment, but I'm quickly reminded of my mother's favorite comment, "The higher the pedestal, the further you have to fall." I'm just trying to do what I think is right, even when I don't like it or it isn't convenient and that's what I'm trying to teach all of my children. Thanks for the encouragement.