This morning, around 11:00 a.m., it was not in my garage. It was stuck, on the diagonal, just outside my driveway in the 22 inches of snow that fell in a great heap upon our community this morning.
When I left for work the roads were challenging but passable; by the time our director decided to send us all home, snow was pouring out of the sky in palpable sheets. Visibility was almost zero; oncoming cars were almost invisible even with headlights on.
As I drove home my thoughts kept time with the overworked windshield wipers: Shit; shit; shit. (Just so you know, I have not given up situationally useful monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon words for Lent.) Every time I made a turn I wondered if I would hit, or be hit by, some unseen other driver. I turned onto the main drag of my subdivision, which was in even worse shape than the other area roads: Shit. Then I came to my own road -- solidly blanketed in snow, way past axle height: SHIT. I gunned it; my vehicle hesitated for a moment, then began plowing through the powder. One more turn; just one more turn, and I'll be in my driveway and in my garage, and this will all be over with.
That's when I got stuck.
A van was behind me -- a fact of which I was not aware, because the visibility was so poor. When I began turning into my drive the van tried driving around me, and then it got stuck. Our two vehicles blocked the way of a third vehicle.
I tried -- unsuccessfully -- rocking my car into some traction. It wasn't going anywhere; I could smell the burning rubber as the tires spun.
These are a few of my unfavorite things: Failing. Failing at tasks I don't have a lot of confidence in to begin with. Machines not working the way they're supposed to. Inconveniencing other people. Having to ask for help. Second-guessing myself: Why didn't I just call the office and say I couldn't get out of my driveway? Would that have been such a lie? Why didn't I call my mom and have her call the plow guy? Why didn't I just stay in town until the storm passed? Being cold and tired and frustrated.
It was a very Lenten moment.
But here's what happened. The guy in the stuck van emerged from his vehicle. Turned out he was my down-the-road neighbor. He sent his adolescent-aged kids trudging home through the snow, and after a few minutes they returned with snow shovels. I got out my snow shovel, and some of that gritty cement-floor-sweep stuff you use to clean garages. Meanwhile, the person in the third vehicle came over...and it turned out to be my junior-high-school math teacher -- back then a very young man fresh out of college, now someone who seems just a wee tad more middle-aged than me -- who lives at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Everybody pitched in, and Van Guy finally got unstuck. Then they turned their attention to my car, and after a Herculean effort it finally found some traction and made it off the road and partway into my driveway before the volume of snow stopped it again. At this point I was dripping from head to toe with melting snow, and went inside to change and have some coffee; when I looked out the window, other neighbors had arrived with a snowblower and kids with shovels, and they helped dig a pathway toward the garage. I took over, with about 12 more feet of driveway to go; just as I neared the garage doorway, my Plow Guy arrived.
At this point my car was fairly clear of snow, so I thought I could just start it up, drive into my garage and let Plow Guy tidy up the driveway. I was wrong. My vehicle was stubbornly stuck. Plow Guy and I did some more digging and grit-spreading. Finally -- finally -- he was able to move it past the patch of ice the tires had been resting on, and drive it into the garage for me.
Afterward, thawing out in the house, I thought about the learning experience that had just happened to me. Here's the lesson:
Sometimes I make dumb decisions that make my life harder.
Sometimes I can do the right things, and life still doesn't go the way I want it to.
Sometimes I can't help myself.
Playing the blame game, including the self-blame game, doesn't fix things.
God's love and grace are often made manifest by other people.
I want to be one of those people.
At our Ash Wednesday service last night, our pastor talked about the "unholy Trinity" that leads us away from our relationships with God and with one another: sin; our fear of death; and our sense of alienation -- our sometimes wilful conviction that we're all alone in the world. My small army of helpers today -- perhaps they could be counted among the angeloi? -- were, I think, another reminder to me that I need to put down my gun of defensiveness and my pride in my rugged individualism, and let other people help me once in awhile.