“Life is not an easy matter… You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.” Leon Trotsky
An overheating car was not on our agenda when Dale and I entered Sequoia National Park for an eighteen mile backpacking trip. Admittedly, the temperature was 102 degrees at the park entrance when our poor Jetta’s temperature reached the red “turn me off now” zone, but the car was only six-years-old and I’d just had a coolant leak repaired. And so we found ourselves sitting alongside the curvy mountain road with the hood up on five occasions. Each time we fooled ourselves into thinking that once it cooled off to a healthy temperature it wouldn’t overheat again.
Humankind pulled through when four cars pulled over to see if we needed assistance. Two of them suggested that we turn around since we still had more than 2,000 feet to climb to the central part of the park. We stubbornly chose to disregard the first man’s suggestion, but heeded the second when we had already been in the park for over an hour but had only gone a few miles.
Dejected, we turned Candice (the Jetta) around and drove the hour back to the closest town with our tails between our legs. That was when we had to decide how to respond to our unfortunate situation. Part of us wanted to whine, moan, and groan about having driven seven hours and taken a day off of work just to be thwarted by a mechanical problem. Woe is us for being stranded in the hot central valley town of Visalia when the cool, wooded mountains beckoned us.
We chose instead to make the most of the situation. We thanked God for allowing us to drive out of the park rather than being towed the forty-five miles back to town, and for the kindness of the people who had offered assistance. While settling in for a cold craft beer later that night in Visalia, a number of people who learned about our situation offered condolences and suggestions on what to do during our unexpected evening in their town. We praised the Lord for their realness and compassion.
The next morning we took Candice to Sam at Good Guys. Once again kindness and service permeated our visit. He went out of his way to locate a fuse to repair the problem. Unfortunately, the part did not work. Feeling our pain, Sam significantly discounted the price for the diagnosis and offered suggestions on how to make it the final six hours home without overheating.
When we arrived back in San Diego without incident, we thanked God for watching over us, providing for us, and for the goodness of the people of Visalia. What could have been a frustrating and disappointing experience instead turned into an opportunity to view the beauty of people in a place where we hadn’t expected to stop, much less spend the night.
When have your thwarted plans turned into a positive experience?