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The following article first appeared in the Kankakee Daily Journal and is reprinted with permission.
By Rachael Reynolds-Soucie/for Rantoul Press
One of the best lines ever sung comes from the Beatles: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
The kindness of strangers can be found most anywhere, but it often comes when it’s least expected.
For me, that day was a couple Fridays ago, when I was on my way to Urbana to retrieve our golden retriever, Lily, following surgery at the University of Illinois Small Animal Clinic.
I was by myself, heading south on Interstate 57 when a tire blew midway between Paxton and Rantoul.
We have free roadside assistance with AAA, but they had a hard time finding someone to come out to change my tire. It just wasn’t worth anyone’s time to come rescue a damsel in distress in the middle of nowhereland.
But not George Lambros. He drove 50 miles from Fairbury in a beat-up sedan full of tools. He finds many tow truck drivers won’t come out to this lonely stretch of interstate because the mileage reimbursement isn’t worth it. It’s not worth it for him, either, so that’s why he only does it for women and children, he said.
George put on the spare and sent me on my way. Fifteen minutes later, I pulled into the Wal-Mart in Rantoul and ordered two new tires. But the minute I pulled out of the parking lot, my brakes stopped working. Upon closer inspection, Wal-Mart said it wasn’t something they could fix — brake fluid was leaking from a busted hose — and they had no idea who could.
I called Sears Automotive in Champaign, and by some miracle, they referred me to Campbell’s Auto Repair right there in Rantoul.
I called, and Roger Campbell picked up the phone. Practically in tears, I explained how I was on my way to pick up my puppy, my husband was at work and my 7-year-old daughter was home in Kankakee with a sitter. “Don’t panic,” he said and told me to come on down to his garage. It was after 6:30 p.m.
Roger builds old hot rods, and after a quick look at my Toyota Matrix, he said he was certain he could fix the leak. He called a friend looking for the part, but said he could work with just about any brake fluid hose for a Toyota. He’s a lucky guy, he told me — always had been, always will be — and had no doubt he’d find something that would work.
Two hours later, he was done, a permanent fix. Weary from the long day, I was eager to get home to Grace. The veterinary surgeon had left for the day, so it was too late to get Lily. I’d just have to make the trip again the next day. After forking over $250 earlier for tires and with a $3,200 veterinarian bill waiting for me in Urbana, I cringed thinking about how I was going to cover this latest expense. But at this time at night, 60 miles from home, I was willing to pay whatever it took.
I was just about to pull out my credit card when I asked, “So how much is this going to cost?” Roger turned and said, “How about nothing?” He said he just wanted to share some of his luck with me.
But I didn’t see it as luck; I saw it as a blessing.
So for the second time that day, a kind stranger sent me safely on my way. George even called around 9 o’clock to make sure I had gotten home all right.
As I picked Grace up from the neighbor’s, she wondered where Lily was. I had to explain to her what had happened, and how two warm-hearted people helped me when I needed it most.
The next day, Grace drew two pictures, thanking George and Roger for “fixing my mommy’s car.” It was a lesson that resonated even with a 7-year-old. But I told her we needed to do more. We had to find some other ways to give back, whether it was bringing canned goods to the food pantry or helping out at a local cat shelter.
It’s one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your kids — the golden rule that the Beatles sang about.
So, how do you and your kids give back? I’d love to know. And, Grace and I would love to help. If you’d like to enlist two extra volunteers, send me an email. We might not have time for every one, but we’ll pitch in where we can.
And Lily? We still have four more weeks of crate rest, but she is doing well and will back to her rambunctious old self before long.
Rachael Reynolds-Soucie is metro editor at The Daily Journal. Contact her by calling 815-937-3351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.