Leap of faith into the arms of trust

Published 12:14 pm Thursday, November 17, 2016

There are plenty of good people out there. You just have to trust them, and it’s trust you’ll have earned in return.

At least that’s a lesson I re-learned Tuesday on the side of US Highway 64 between Plymouth and Columbia.

I was driving on that 70-mph stretch of four-lane asphalt when my truck started slowing down of its own accord. I couldn’t accelerate, so I braked slowly and eased off the side of the road. No sooner had it stopped completely and put it into “Park,” than the engine cut – I was out of gas.

See, anyone who has ever driven this truck (which is older than some teenagers driving today) knows its “quirks” and ways around them. On this particular day, the quirk I’d forgotten about was to move my son’s mini-picture aside to check the mileage on the trip-odometer – one of the truck’s issues is that the fuel gauge goes back and forth between full/empty/full/empty every few minutes or so. Therefore, the only way to ensure you have plenty of gas is to keep topping off the tank and make sure it doesn’t go more than 350 miles since the last fill-up.

Except on Tuesday, for the first time since I’ve been driving that vehicle, I forgot. And unfortunately, it occurred on that particular stretch on which it’s scary to be the driver of a broken-down vehicle.

Well, after about the second semi zoomed past me what felt like less than a foot away – meanwhile I’m sitting behind the wheel, calling and/or texting everyone I know whose number I have and even remotely lives or works in eastern NC – I decided to take matters into my own hands.

At a friend’s suggestion, I Googled the number for the “Creswell Town Police” from my phone. That search redirected me to the Tyrell County Sheriff’s Office, who gave me the non-emergency number for the Washington County Communications Center, since apparently I was on the other side of the county line.

After I told the dispatcher my approximate location, explained the situation and she said she’d send someone out. She advised that I should get out of the vehicle and to a safer place. As I looked at my surroundings I was completely panicking as there was not much of a safer place. An hour later I was sitting on my light-colored coat on the grass about five feet behind the truck and as far to the right as I could get (without falling in a ditch), reading a book and drinking bottled water when a vision appeared: life besides that which zoomed by at a really fast pace!

It stepped down from its white cab and closed its door. It opened its mouth and said, “Ma’am, are you having a picnic or do you need some help?”

Of course, “it” was a complete stranger. At that moment, I made a split-second decision: I was going to try to believe the best in this person, so I said a prayer and stood up.

The stranger I now feel like I know has a name – Mr. Donald Collins – and he is a truck driver (off-duty and not driving the “big rig” when he stopped) who was on his way from Kill Devil Hills to his home in Belhaven. I know this because, after talking to Mr. Collins on the side of the road for several minutes and calling back the Washington County dispatcher’s office to tell them someone had stopped to help, I decided to trust that he meant well and no harm would come of me. Mr. Collins, if you are reading this, thank you for not only your time and your help today, but for letting me know that there is hope yet for humanity.

I long ago gave up trying to stop and help someone I didn’t recognize on the side of the road. Despite my wanting to help, it rarely ended well – thankfully for me or I wouldn’t be writing this – not too badly, but still I know there were probably too many close calls.

It’s just as hard, though, to be the one to accept help. Who was I supposed to know who that man was, or that we probably know a lot of the same people, enough to agree to get in his vehicle to go to the gas station and get gas? It is sad that we do have to be extra careful in the world we live in today, but sometimes you have to do what I did on Tuesday and just trust that there is inherent good in people, and take that leap of faith. It just might surprise you.

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at jennipher.dickens@r-cnews.com or (252) 332-7206.