Good Samaritans, eh!

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Jackie Guimond, Special to The Review | August 15, 2021

Last Sunday, we were en-route from Winnipeg to Kenora, the last lap of our mini-vacation in the west. I was re-living the moments, feeling saddened that it was over. There was nothing in sight to make new plans for…tears were beginning to trickle down behind my sunglasses…….and then, suddenly..(God/de chuckled and winked…)

A vehicle in distress was parked on the shoulder of the highway, hood up, woman and boy behind, waving frantically. We pulled over just ahead of them. The woman immediately thanked us for stopping and the boy excitedly said: “it’s the eh! Van!” (Apparently we were passed by them west of Winnipeg . . . then we passed by when they were gassing up . . . then they obviously passed when we were gassing up . . . in any case, we were behind them …and stopped to help .. the only right thing to do .. eh?)

The first question we asked was: ”Are you vaccinated?” Affirmative for all of us, so the conversation began.

Martha, Luis, and sons, James,16, and Miguel, 12, (We would learn their names later.) live in Red Deer, AB and were going to Niagara Falls for an already planned and paid for week long vacation. The 2018 Ford SUV had been serviced prior to departure and all was well . . . just until the four-lane Trans-Canada ended at Falcon Lake. The car started losing power and came to a stop. Looking under the hood was futile . . . everything looked foreign. There was still power, however, but the engine seemed dead.

Thank God that we had recently renewed our CAA membership. For less than a dollar a day, we can be towed for up to 100 KM no charge. Furthermore, we can share that with someone in need.

Thank God for cell phones that work, for wonderful, caring CAA staff somewhere in southern Ontario who GPS’d us, who checked the remaining power on our phone so as not to lose us, who had a tow-truck on its way, even if 30 km away.

So while we waited, we got to know a bit about this family. Martha’s Spanish accent was a give-away . . . but her English is very good. They are originally from Colombia, moved to Canada some years ago . . . to Quebec, where they discovered very soon, that because they could not speak French, they were not welcome . . . thus Alberta became home. Martha works at a remand centre, Luis has his own landscaping business, seasonal of course, so does interior carpentry during winter months. The boys speak Spanish, English and French that they learned in Catholic school. Miguel is like a walking Thesaurus . . . when his mom is searching for a word, she just looks at him and he speaks it!

It was very apparent that this is a deeply spiritual family . . . Martha told me that they pray every time they get into a car . . . she told me that while I was getting CAA info from my purse that she had told the boys, That man is Aboriginal and his wife has ‘Jesus’ on her shirt . . . these are good, kind people . . . this is how we should treat each other.”

If CAA was the first miracle, then the second one was in motion as Gerry moved EVERYTHING in the van to fit behind the back seats. By the time the tow-truck arrived, everyone had a belted seat, with one left over! The tow-truck fellow was young, very kind, offered to take one person with him if necessary. As he attached the cable to the axle I mentioned something about being careful to not damage the boot; he bent down to double check . . . said it was good, but must have wondered what an old lady knew about such things (an old personal experience).

We had about 74 km to Kenora … had no idea where the Ford dealership was, but our trusty young tow-truck driver just followed his GPS and we found ourselves strategically placed across from three hotels, and by four fast-food places. This would have been ideal except for the long week-end. There was not a SINGLE room available in the entire city! While Martha kept trying different places we chatted with the boys and watched a mother deer, her fawn, and a black bear each stop traffic as they crossed the street by us. Because of the forest fires, bears have been sighted all over the place. Gerry and I checked out smaller, independent motels . . . they too were full.

We felt so helpless . . . NO ROOM . . . that was supposed to just be a Christmas story.

At one point, before we learned about the NO VACANCY situation, we called June, with whom we were staying for the night, to ask if she would mind if we picked up some chicken and brought them out to eat. She could not respond. Finally, Martha just decided they would sleep in the car. What else could they do?

Driving away, we felt absolutely sick . . . kept asking God for some kind of solution.

When we arrived at June’s place, she was standing on her deck, yelling, ”Why don’t you answer your phone?” We didn’t hear it obviously.

She continued: “It takes God longer to get through to me. We can’t leave them sleeping in their car. Call them . . . tell them to call this cab #####, to bring them to my address ##### . . . I have no extra bed, but I do have a floor . . . they are welcome to sleep here!”

I can only imagine this foursome calling a cab, heading out of town in the darkness, trusting that they would be alive to tell the story. This was a bigger miracle than CAA, or Gerry’s packing . . . and the miracle was in June’s heart!

We visited for awhile, then all four of them disappeared into the bedroom with blankets, pillows, carpet, but no mattress or foam. They awoke on Alberta time; the three of us had been up a couple hours earlier. (I had called one of the hotels near their car, told the desk clerk the story and asked her to reserve the very first empty room that became available. She had one . . . with one bed. When I asked if it was king-size, she said it was . . . I said, ”We’ll take it!” By the time we checked in later, she had a room with two beds for them!)

They had brought bread, cheese, and ham with them; along with eggs from June, breakfast was pretty tasty.

Because Monday was a holiday, there was nothing to be done at the dealership. June lives by Rabbit Lake so our new friends, Gerry and I did a two mile walk around the lake . . . he walked with Martha and Luis . . . I was with the boys . . . absolutely delightful, polite young men.

Later we went back into town . . . drove around a bit . . . then they insisted on taking us to eat at Boston Pizza. Such good, good people! We said our good-byes, but told them we were staying overnight to see how things would work out with the car the next day. They spent the day walking, sight-seeing, and the boys enjoyed the pool.

Tuesday we waited to hear back from the family the verdict on their car. It seems that for some unknown reason, the oil was not getting to the engine and thus the engine is dead! When Martha asked the mechanic how this could happen, his only answer was ‘bad luck’. The dealership suggested they trade it in right there and buy a new one! Who would do that??? Martha and Luis decided they would leave it there until they get back. (The plan was to possibly have her brother come from Alberta to tow it back; recent thought is to sell it to Godbout auto parts in Kenora and take the rental home.)

They had planned this vacation for some time. She told me: ”I want my boys to learn that you don’t give in to adversity; you work through it.”

They rented a car for 350.00/week, unlimited mileage . . . they left on Wednesday morning, texted safe arrival at Sault Ste Marie that evening, texted today, Friday morning that they arrived in Niagara Falls last night.

They are living their dream! FB posts confirm that!

We had asked them to let us know when they expect to reach Kenora again. so we can drive up to see them. “Oh, you will see us; if we have time, we will come back through Fort Frances!”

Yeah! Something to look forward to!

(And God/de chuckled and winked!)

[Jackie Guimond, Fort Frances, ON, is a frequent contributor to The Review]


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