A Slightly Unconventional Year End Blog

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON DECEMBER 22, 2014

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I met this fellow a couple of weeks ago. I met him because I smashed into his car and wrecked it.

(There is a small hill when you are coming off our street, when it ices up, it's lethal. If you have any speed at all and brake too late, you're toast, you sail right through the stop sign. I have warned my kids endlessly and now am the only one in the family to have screwed up.)

The first few minutes of our acquaintance weren't amicable, which was fair. He was trying to get himself and two others to work at the Ford plant on a very snowy night and some jackass came careening off a side street and took him out and maybe bruised his ribs. It didn't help, I think, that my car was still easily drivable and his was wrecked.

But then he walked over and apologized for his outburst. I apologized for smashing his car. We walked over to check where my car had slid and when my street shoes hit the ice, I fell right on my head, hard

enough that he had to help me get up. This wasn't exactly my best night.

Anyway, his friends got picked up, eventually the tow truck and the police came. They were professional and in a hurry. After a few minutes, the officer proclaimed "Inclement weather. No fault here.

Come to the station tomorrow and pick up the accident reports." Then he sped off to meet more idiotic drivers. I drove my new acquaintance to the plant so he could still get his shift in (an act of bravery on

his part). And that was that, except for this:

I was feeling pretty guilty, so I called him a week later and asked how he was. He was friendly, said he was feeling OK, but was bummed out that the insurance company wasn't offering him enough money to replace his car. It was going from bad to worse. I asked him to keep in touch, but I knew he wouldn't. So another week later, I sent him some money. Not a huge amount, but enough to ease my guilt and feel better about myself. As the saying goes, it's all about me, but it's also about the fact that this guy was getting financially whacked solely as a result of my famously bad driving.

Here's the long overdue punchline. A few days later I got a message from him telling me thanks, but he wasn't taking the money. He said he had been raised to forgive and forget, and to accept what life brought him, and that's what he was going to do. It struck me immediately that this wasn't his pride talking, it was his values. He left no room for further discussion.

I will try again probably, but will certainly fail. I think his values would be compromised if he took the money, and that ain't happening. I wish I could get him to write a 'guest blog' about his thinking about

that night - there'd likely be a solid lesson there - but I'm sure that ain't happening either. This is over.

Have a great 2015.