This holiday season, we try to give thanks for our good fortune, and all of us, no matter what our problems look like, have some. In her anthology “Like The Stars of the Heavens,” Helen Zegerman Schwimmer is thankful for the smallest things, like The Angel Who Drove A Chevy.
As I busily wrap the Chanukah gifts for my little grandchildren, I’m suddenly reminded of an event that took place many years ago when my own kids were young. There are inexplicable moments in our lives that seem to take on a mythical quality as the years go by, so that we wonder if they ever really happened. This is the story of one such mystifying event.
It was a few days before Chanukah. I was driving home from the local mall, my trunk overflowing with games and toys for my three children, when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. I nervously steered it on to the grassy shoulder of the highway and hit the emergency brake. The gas gauge registered empty.
This was back in the days before cell phones, so there was nothing to do but pop open the hood and wait, hoping a Good Samaritan or the highway police would eventually stop. But when the cars continued to whiz by I grew increasingly impatient and decided to hike to the nearest gas station that I had passed about a quarter of a mile back.
“My car ran out of gas on the parkway,” I sheepishly confessed to the gas station attendant.
“Can’t spare anybody right now,” he said. Instead, he offered to fill a two-gallon can halfway and I trudged back down the road, like the biblical Rebecca hauling her jug from the well. It wasn’t until I removed the cap from the can that I realized the spout was missing, so I had no way of pouring the oil into the tank.
As the sun started to sink, so did my spirits. Why me? Why today? Why here on this busy highway that was beginning to feel like a desolate stretch of desert? The answer would arrive shortly.
I watched a battered car pull off the road a few feet in front of me. While a child peered out from the rear window, a young woman emerged from the driver’s seat. She walked purposefully over to the trunk, opened it and removed an object, then turned and came towards me, smiling broadly.
“I bring this for you—you need this,” she said with a Hispanic accent as she offered me the tin can with a spout. Seeing the look of amazement on my face she explained, “I carry this for emergency.”
I had always assumed that angels commute via their wings. So I was totally unprepared for this modern-day version that drove up in a Chevy. I silently accepted the container, unscrewed the spout and poured the liquid from my can into hers and then into my tank. The whole procedure took only seconds.
“Thank you,” I murmured gratefully as I handed back the empty can. Before I could offer her any reward, she hurried back to her car and just as mysteriously as she had arrived, the stranger drove off with a wave.
I turned the ignition key, relieved to hear the familiar hum of the engine and steered my car back onto the highway. And just as the last ray of light left the sky I headed towards home, glowing from the gift that was worth so much more than the gasoline I had just received.
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