I sat there unmoving, as the surrealism of it all washed over me. I expected to be momentarily converged upon by the occupants of the home whose property I had so rudely invaded, but nothing happened. No one stirred. Even the car’s rearview mirror reflected a peaceful calm. I was eerily alone.
The air in the car’s interior was stifling. I pushed the car door open and went out to check on my surroundings and the devastation I had wrought. Apparently I had entered at a slant between two driveways and had hit a neat little garden bordering the driveway of the home to my left. A strategically placed large dome of a rock had twisted the right rear wheel of my car at a grotesque angle, the front wheels coming to a rest amid a disarray of bricks that were disturbed from their originally neat circular pattern.
The tree I had so flippantly sent flying was of an exotic specimen and had an exceptionally thin bark. It looked to have stood about ten feet tall before its sudden demise. Needle-like fronds shaken loose from its branches were strewn about the driveway’s surface.
All at once I caught sight of the neighbor walking up her driveway and seized on the opportunity to find out whose house I had encroached on. The young woman was oblivious to the newest development that had just unfolded in such close proximity to her residence, but upon sizing up the scenario, with my input, she assured me that the owners were nice working people – who availed themselves to their neighbors as “Shabbos Goy” when needed – and wouldn’t be home until evening.
While I awaited the tow truck that would haul my disabled vehicle away, I scribbled a note detailing the circumstances of my impromptu drop-in. I signed my name, left my home phone number and placed the small sheet of paper where I knew the homeowners wouldn’t miss it.
As I looked around, I noticed a storage barn situated at the end of the driveway. Had I cleared the periphery and accessed the driveway clean, I’d have crashed into that barn and in all probability wreaked more serious damage. To boot, this was the last house on this stretch of thruway before the intersection. Had I reacted a second later, I’d have missed my buffer.
Moreover miraculous was my last-minute resolve not to head into town to shop. The road in that direction is lined with door-to-door condominiums where little children are always seen darting in and out and playing outdoors. I shudder at the thought of the options I would have been faced with.
Suffice it to say that nothing occurs by happenstance and that a malach had steered me at the right second into the safest environment to cushion my landing. No, I don’t consider myself to be this great deserving-of-a-miracle individual — far from it. But does it not famously say in Mishlei, tzedakah tatzil mimaves (charity saves one from death)? The last act I had performed earlier that day, before embarking on my fateful encounter…
But wait, it gets better. That same night I received a call from the people whose wrath I had so dreaded. I braced myself for the lecture that would surely be forthcoming, of how I had damaged their property and how much it would cost to clean up and replace the tree, etc.
Instead, I heard a kindly woman’s voice anxiously inquiring about the state of my wellbeing. When I expressed my regret at the mess I had left behind and the tree that had been uprooted, she was incredibly reassuring and insisted that I had not inconvenienced them at all. “In fact,” she added, “I’ve been complaining forever about this tree that obstructs my view each time I exit my driveway. You actually did me a big favor by getting rid of it for me.”
The day had been an emotionally draining one, to put it mildly, but it was only now that I felt myself tearing up. What a beautiful gesture from a wonderful human being, and what a powerful lesson – among others of this day – for all of us to take to heart.