Guest Column: Three brown men, a petite, old white lady and a flat tire

by Mary Bryant*


My right rear tire blew out – a tire that was only three weeks old.  Fortunately, I was in the right lane and was able to get on the shoulder safely – next to one of those large concrete barrier walls.  The traffic was so heavy and fast I was feeling dizzy and very uneasy. Perhaps frightened is a better word. Yeah that’s the right word.

I started moving stuff out of the trunk so I could get to the tire and jack and was having a very difficult time getting the tools out of their home. They felt bolted down. I couldn’t help but notice all of the SUVs, Hummers and sleek European and American vehicles whizzing by – cars bearing Godly and righteous bumper stickers proclaiming their love for the lord, love for their neighbors, love for the troops, love for every unborn beating heart, but they had no love for this diminutive 59-year-old white-haired woman – this woman who by now was shaking a bit with a tear or two dripping down her cheek. Perhaps it was the last-minute chilly wind that occurs in the mile high city that caused the watery eyes. I doubt it.

My saviors arrived in a small old beat up white pick up truck with painting equipment in the back. They pulled up in front of my car and out rolled three brown men in baseball caps with white paint spattered on their skin and their clothes. They immediately took over the task at hand.

These gentlemen spoke no English – but none was needed for them to see a woman in dire need. No English was needed to help in perfect team work to get the tire changed in about 5 minutes; no English was needed for them to refuse the $20 I offered; no English was needed for them to accept the small bag of freshly made chocolate chip cookies that I had for family; no English was needed for them to understand my gratitude when I put my small and perfectly manicured hand in each of their tire-dirty, paint sprinkled brown hands to convey my thanks. No English was needed as we nodded and waved and smiled at each other as we each drove away on our separate trips.

I thought about it as I drove towards the airport and couldn’t reconcile or understand why language, color of skin or country of origin are something to fear. We’re all on the same planet. From a distance in space without a zoom-in camera you can’t notice the artificial boundaries. It’s difficult to defend the indefensible. And, my experience also suggests you may find a bit of humanity in the most unexpected of circumstances.

* A romantic traveler