Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Divine Encounters [Brushes With Humanity]

So here is how it goes.

Ever since seeing the preview for Final Destination 2, in which the narrator expounds on how each of our actions has a consequence--which is shown in a series of life changing moments including a multi-car pile up on a highway--I have many times considered the truth of that belief.

It is definitely eye-opening to consider how many times we have done or said things that have negatively and/or positively affected the people around us. What we do is very telling of our character, and what we say speaks volumes of our heart. How we treat affects them more than us, but we rarely think of that.

Anyway, since seeing that preview I have consistently thought of the consequences of each and every single thing that we do. It is awe-inspiring to contemplate the fact that we are all connected, and we have an irreversible effect on each other.

Something happened to me and a couple of my friends last summer that we have only shared with a few people, because it left us shaken. It made me realise that I know very little about life and that it will constantly scare and surprise me until I die. This past week someone I had talked to about the occurrence mentioned it to me, jogging my memory and once again drawing me back to those thoughts of Newton's Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It was an early Sunday night last summer. My dad was staying home from church for some reason that I cannot directly recall. I think he was suffering through a bout of back pain. At any rate, children's' choir was singing that night so my dad asked me to drive our minivan up to the church early to drop off my family for the practice. At this point I had my own car, and needless to say, I wasn't utterly ecstatic at the idea of being seen driving this white minivan that had a history of questionable performance. Strangely enough, even though it was quite an older van, it had this odd security system where you had to swipe a magnetic key through the air underneath the dashboard before you could the van to turn on. It took me literally around three minutes just to get the thing started for church.

Once we arrived early at the church, Sihaam, Kristina and I decided to head over to Tim Hortons to get a drink. It was hot out and we wanted to cool down. We hopped into the ghetto minivan and roared our way over to the Timmies. Because I wanted to avoid the hassle of turning the van off and then struggling to get it restarted due to the security system, we chose to go through the drive through.

Then, just as we were heading up to the ordering box/mic, the van stalled. My dad had in passing lightly mentioned that it had the unfortunate habit of stalling when it idled for too long, but I didn't really take what he had said seriously. He said it had only stalled twice on him. Here we are, stuck in the drive thru, cars backed up behind us, and we weren't quite at the ordering box to tell them what was going on. We could hear the lady's voice up ahead: "Hello? Welcome to Tim Hortons, how can I help you? Hello? Helllloooooooo?"

At that point we were laughing and freaking out simultaneously. This is what we sounded like--

"Swipe it!"
"I'm swiping it!"
"TURN IT ON!!!!"
"I am going to KILL Dad! This is all his fault!"
"Holy stupid car Batman."
"Guys, seriously, what do we do?"

This went on for a while. I guess now that I look back on it, it was much more amusing that we guessed. We were switching hysterical laughing and yelling at each other. Finally after several minutes (at least two, which seem a lot longer than two when you're blocking a Timmies drive thru) I managed to get the system to beep on and the car turned over. We rumbled to up to the ordering speaker, got our coffee and iced caps, and drove up to the window. We were quite embarrassed. Very embarrassed. Very very embarrassed. And the girl at the window was not amused at all. At all.

Well that was a somewhat humiliating and discomforting situation, and we were all freaking out even after we left the Tims and headed back to the church. We had to leave out of the wrong exit and so we were forced to take the long route back to the church. The whole drive we disparaged the van and avoided eye contact with pedestrians and people in other vehicles. I think Kristina and Sihaam saw the humour in the situation before I did.

As we were driving down Hester Street (it was around six-fifteen at this point), we were talking and going on in our usual slightly crazy manner. Tooling along at barely forty kph (stupid van), as we neared Upper Wellington, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a guy standing beside his car which was pulled up onto parking lot/driveway of a small business that was obviously closed. The man had something is his hands and he was hitting it against the passenger door of the door. I obviously could not drive straight and stare over my right shoulder so I looked back ahead and said casually, "Hey, what's that guy doing back there?" I thought he was hammering out a dent in his car door. Hey, it's not that far-fetched of an idea! My dad had to do that to our old van when someone *cough*Josh*cough* dented it.

But when I mentioned that to the girls, they whipped around and started staring at the guy and then both of them started yelling at the same time. I could barely deceipher what they were saying, but Sihaam who was in the passenger seat beside me started excitedly hitting the dashboard and repeated "TURN AROUND TURN AROUND TURN AROUND RIGHT NOW!" at the top of her lungs. Kristina was screaming, "THERE'S A GIRL IN THE CAR! HE'S DRAGGING HER OUT OF THE CAR! HE'S HITTING HER!!! TURN AROUND!" They were both literally SCREAMING, and I couldn't turn around because I was right at the lights then. Sihaam was hollering at the top of her lungs and doing that weird spastic body shake thing she does was she gets far too excited for her own good. I acted out of reflex. I slapped her across the face and yelled, "SHUT UP! I'M TURNING AROUND!" Kristina was still yelling in the seat behind us.

I don't even remember how I managed to turn around. I think I turned right at the lights and took a shortcut through another business parking lot. Anyway, however it happened, I turned the crappy minivan around and headed back down Hester Street.

I guess we really didn't think about what we would do once we got back to the situation. I think basically we all thought that we were seeing things. Would a guy really beat on a girl right on a street during daylight? When we were driving back I really do think that we all thought we had been seeing things and it would be explained once we get there.

Well, it wasn't. I drove slowly back to the spot, and the guy was still there, but at this point he was screaming at the top of his lungs at her, and she was crying and standing beside the car. He took his hammer and slammed it against the windows of the car, knocking the glass out. He grabbed her and started shaking her and we stared. He looked up and yelled something like, "What are you *insert long stream of expletives here* looking at?!" We had the air conditioning on so I had to roll the window down. I leaned out of the van and said the all-Canadian phrase, "Hey ummm...is everything okay?" Obviously it wasn't, but it was weird...I felt rude interrupting their one-sided argument.

The guy replied something like, "Yeah yeah whatever".
I said, "Ummm...you wanna come with us?" to the girl.

It was weird. I don't think either of them expected anyone to stop. They both kinda paused and stared for a few seconds and then the guy started freaking out again and screaming at the girl, banging his hammer against the car. There was glass all over the ground from the windows.

I yelled again, "HEY! You should come with us! You should come now."
The girl looked hesitantly towards us, and we could tell she wanted to come with us but she wasn't sure about what to do.
I said again, "You need help. We're here to help you. You should come with us."

The guy started freaking out again and said something like, "Shut Up! Shut up! *insert more colourful expletives here*"
I said calmly, "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to her."
She started walking toward us and he went off again.
"FINE, LEAVE! LEAVE LIKE YOU ALWAYS DO YOU LITTLE *more descriptive words* BECAUSE YOU'RE A *more unfriendly words*!!!"

There was more of an exchange here, but I can't remember what exactly it was. All I can recall is urging her to get into the van, and she tentatively eased toward it as the man get screaming, banging the car, calling her names, and blaming her for all his problems.

I was so afraid at that point that he would chase her across the street or threaten us. The van was still idling and I kept thinking, 'Please don't stall, please don't stall.' Sihaam climbed into the back seat with Kristina. They had both gotten really quiet, and as the girl climbed into the passenger seat at the front, they both clammed up completely. All I could hear from the back seat was that bubbling/scraping sound straws make when you get to the bottom of your drink.

The girl was probably in her late teens/early twenties. She was crying and visibly distressed. She had bruises all over her. Some were blue, some were yellow, indicating that she had had some of them for a while and some were fresher. We didn't know what to say. I drove down the street as quickly as the van could take us (not very fast) and I asked her, "Is there someone you can call? Do you want to go to the police?"

Initially she seemed like she wanted to go, but we didn't know where the police station was. She said that is had happened before and she didn't have any friends to call. She called her mother and asked her to meet at the Wendy's.

It was perhaps the most poignant moment I have ever had in my life: her insisting that it was okay and she had been through it before. She climbed out of the van and disappeared. Before she left we asked her her name, and as she walked into the Wendy's to meet her mother, we prayed quickly for her.

I guess the reason why this impacted me so much was because of two things.

One was the absolute sovereignty involved in the whole situation. If my dad hadn't hurt his back, needed me to drive the failure of a van, if it hadn't stalled in the Tims...we might have missed them when we drove by. If we had been maybe two minutes later or earlier, we may not have been able to have removed that girl from that situation. So that has remained with me and it holds me steadfast to the belief that God has connected us all with His omnipotence, leading us to divine encounters.

The second thing that impacted me was how fragile we are as people. While we might be resilient and we might pull through terrible sicknesses, it is so easy to break us emotionally and hurt us. The young woman acted as though she almost deserved to be physically ripped out of a car, punched and slapped in the face. The brief touch with humanity, and the realisation that this type of violence occurs on a daily basis shook us all up. We are often to far removed from these realities, because they are not in our face on a regular basis. It is so easy to think the best of humans when you constantly are seeing the best. Violence shakes you up and reminds you of what we are capable of.

So that is the story of something that changed me forever. I don't feel that turning the van around and going back with particularly an act of courage. It was simply what needed to be done.

And, if you ever see or are involved in a situation like this, call the police at once. We didn't even think of doing that, but it's probably the best idea.

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