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  • Kimberly Rowley

The night that changed my life.


Rainy night on a freeway through a windshield

It was a dark and stormy night. 2004. I was driving on the freeway in my $100 car (a Toyota Tercel that wouldn't go into first gear) when the passenger tire blew out. The ceaseless rain pelted my windows as I careened to the right. The car slowed and I was able to stop safely on the shoulder.


My 4 year old daughter was with me. We were going to meet some friends for a Christmas party. She and I were dressed in our finest party clothes, consisting of whatever funky get-ups we found at the thrift store. I wrapped my giant white faux-fur coat around my daughter and put a baseball cap I had in the trunk on her head and we walked to the nearest exit, in the dark unrelenting rain.


This was an interesting time in my life.


My daughter and I lived in a one bedroom apartment, we were on food stamps, I worked two jobs and went to beauty school. We made do with what we had. I don't remember ever feeling like we had less than, or that we needed more. I was just working hard to bring us a better life in the future. A life that would provide the income we needed to get by without relying on anyone.


As we trudged through the rain on the side of the freeway, a white Subaru Outback pulled over to help us, we were cold and wet. She asked if the car back there was mine, and what happened. I told her. She was so sweet, and offered to drive us.


You see, I didn't even have a cell phone.


We arrived at a 7-11 and I called my boyfriend and waited for him to arrive. As we waited, we talked about life and she asked me about mine. I felt a little self conscious, I could tell she had money, at least more than I had, and I worried about what she must think of me.


My boyfriend pulled up, she looked right at me, and handed me a $100 bill to fix my tire. I told her that I could take care of it, and she asked me honestly if I had the money to do it. I did not. I would ask my boyfriend for it I told her. She handed me the money, forcing me to take it, and her words are etched in my mind "It has been my experience that men can be unreliable." I started crying and thanked her. She said these final words before we parted: "Pay it forward."


I know my calling is to help people.


Sometimes it is at work, touching a person, making them feel beautiful or handsome, or accepted. Sometimes it is giving the person in line in front of me a buck to help them finish paying for their groceries. Sometimes it is looking an elderly person in eye, and really seeing them. And sometimes it is simply talking to a stranger.


But, there is a deeper calling. I know what that is. I have known since that fateful night in the rain.


You gave me a real life example of what 'pay it forward' means.


Thank you beautiful woman in the white Subaru. You changed me.


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