Strangers Offer Helping Hand

Sophia Chang | Staff Photographer—Making (and breaking) a New Year's Resolution is an annual tradition for people. How will you improve your new year?

It’s that time of year again. New Year’s resolutions are being made, broken and forgotten as we speak. I’m not one to judge, though — I’ve been there, done all that.

Each year, I tell myself that I will eat healthier. Or be nicer to my sister. Or stop the so-called attitude problems my parents claim I have. And, of course, those resolutions are forgotten really fast.

Yet, to welcome the glorious 2011, I decided to make a resolution that I actually have a shot at keeping. I knew those old resolutions would not suffice. I mean, there is no way I could eat healthy every single day of the year nor could I be the perfect little sister. Those are just impossible and I am happy to say I have accepted that. Acceptance is, after all, the first step toward recovery.

So I took a step back and tried to think of something small, but would make a difference somehow to someone out there. That triggered a distant memory of one wintry night many, many years ago and I instantly knew what my only resolution would be this year.
I was with my mom, training up in Lake Arrowhead, when it started to snow lightly. The roads were slick, but the main issue was the fog. The visibility was practically zero and there was no way that we could get down the mountain.

One of our friends had given us the key to her vacation cabin, which was fairly close to the ice rink. After we got settled, my mom decided to start shoveling the patio so we wouldn’t have to do a ton of work the next day.

It was one of my first experiences with snow, so I followed her outside. We turned on the heater and my mom told me to close the door.
I closed the door, prepared to make a snowman and immediately got yelled at for not wearing gloves.

As I tried to open the door to grab my gloves, I realized that it was locked. Panicked, I asked my mom if she had the key. She shook her head and it hit me. We were locked out, stuck on a mountain, in the middle of below-freezing temperatures, enveloped in fog and frost.
The closest place we could go was to my coach’s house. On a nice day, it was within walking distance. On a dark night where the streets were covered in ice, not so much. But we had no other choice so we began the trek, slowly stumbling along the way.

We walked for at least 10 minutes and hadn’t even reached the end of the street, which, in actuality, was really short. With each step, I realized more and more how unbelievably horrible our situation was.

A pair of headlights shone on us and a navy minibus slowly passed us.
A man wearing a beanie was driving and the young woman in the passenger’s seat rolled down the window and asked if we wanted a ride. My mom said yes and I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Whatever happened to the rule that I shouldn’t talk to strangers?
We got into the car and were instantly greeted by warmth. They took us to my coach’s street, which seemed so much farther than we had originally thought.

I clutched my mom’s arm the entire ride, the stories of kidnappings and all that running continuously through my mind. But they dropped us off at the end of the street and asked if we needed anything else. They even waited for awhile just to make sure we were alright.

My mom and I got to my coach’s house just fine and had a locksmith unlock the cabin the next morning. Everything worked out, but I couldn’t quite figure out why these two people stopped and offered us a ride.

We were basically hitchhikers. The news constantly played stories of burglary, rapes, terrible crimes and unsolved mysteries. There’s a special section in the newspaper dedicated specifically to crime. So why had these two people offered us a ride if we were strangers? And why did we accept?

I have never forgotten that man and woman. I don’t know their names, but I distinctly remember their faces. They exposed a shard of humanity I had barely experienced before.

They went out of their way to help a couple of strangers. They braved the ice and snow to get us where we needed to be. They opened up their warm car with no questions asked. It was a simple act, but I will remember it forever as the time when I had trusted strangers and they had come through.

And so this is my 2011 New Year’s resolution. I want to share with others what these strangers shared with me. I want to be a better person in any way that I can. I want to trust and be trusted. To help and be helped. To genuinely care and be cared for. Because the truth of the matter is, those two strangers didn’t have to do what they did. Nobody was watching and they were most certainly not tied to any obligation.

I am touched by their graciousness and the least I can do is spread it. Maybe I can impact someone else with a small act of kindness, just like they did for me.

This year I will be a better person. It is my promise to the two strangers that have inspired me in so many ways. And I vow that this resolution will not be broken.