Getting Stuck on the Expressway

I had read, heard and experienced that help can come from the most unexpected sources. Skeptic that I was, I still needed more proof. With the aid of hindsight, I had come to see many unrelated instances of the shadow of the divine hand working in my daily life, but to see this ‘working’ in the present tense, this ‘proof’ eluded me.

As I was driving in rush hour traffic on an elevated expressway, a three lane ‘shoulderless’ excuse for a road replete with potholes, my car suddenly died. Not a unique experience, but for a person who had trouble finding the hood release mechanism, a potential nightmare. I sat there watching the cars whiz by me, hearing the cacophony of horns voice their displeasure, my anxiety rising. I knew I had to do something and I pictured myself standing over the engine block looking like I really knew something. Maybe I would fool the passers-by.

A car suddenly pulled up in front of me. A tall Hispanic man in overalls got out of his car with screwdrivers and splayed in his hands. He came around to the driver’s side window, told me he was a mechanic and asked if he could help. My reaction time could not have been faster and a wave of relief came over me. After performing what I thought could only have been a magical incantation under the hood he asked me to try starting the car a few times. My confidence was soaring, but nothing happened. He twiddled with the machinery. After a few more useless attempts, he told me he was sorry, that he could not help, and drove away saying that he would call triple A for me. I slumped back in my seat, thinking ‘God, you are playing a trick on me, right? What more do you have in store?’

No sooner did the mechanic pull away when another car pulled up in back of me. The driver got out and told me that he was off duty, but worked for an all news radio program. He called in my trouble to the helicopter that I now saw circling overhead. Using his car, he pushed my jalopy gently and, after a while, the engine came to life. He followed me to a gas station near my house and then left.

This event is certainly an unusual tale of kindness and good fortune in the big city. But to me, it had an additional significance: it was one of a series of faith-sustaining experiences that I began to see occurring or working in and around my life. I smiled to no one in particular and felt myself begin to loosen another of the grips that bound my understanding…

Along with a lifelong involvement with Sufi studies, Michael Greenstein has worked in both New York and New Jersey state mental health systems primarily in the areas of quality management, corporate compliance, administration, and patient safety.