By Natasha Foreman Bryant
I’m not sure what you call the Creator, or even if you believe that you were created by a higher power greater than humans. I call the Creator: God, Father, Father-Mother God, Lord, Love, Light, and Good.
Since I was a small child I can remember my dad telling me to always listen to, answer, and obey the faint voice within me. He used to say, “Tasha you can never go wrong when you obey that voice“. You can call it intuition, your gut feelings, or “something” that told you to do or say something. I believe that all of these things are God speaking to and through us. Now please don’t confuse that with the battle of multiple personality disorder, etc.
Why and what else could have easily swayed me to pull over and rush to the aid of two drivers, and one passenger involved in a car accident Saturday afternoon off I-75 southbound between the exits for Zoo Atlanta and Atlanta Technical College?
I didn’t know any of the individuals involved, but the voice inside said, “pull over and go help“. So I did. I didn’t think twice. I didn’t contemplate that I was in my business wear, coming from the Women 2 Women Conference that just wrapped up at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel, and that I just wanted to get home and relax. I obeyed and pulled my car over and jumped out.
What I saw moved me. I saw a dark-colored (possibly burgundy) Monte Carlo with damage to the front and rear of the car. I saw the road signs it had ran over, now underneath the car. I saw a young African American girl (maybe 11-years-old) and her father with a look of panic on their faces. I saw another vehicle parked several yards back, a smaller white car, missing the front end, and the driver, a young white woman in the driver’s seat looking frazzled.
I approached the father and daughter and asked them repeatedly if they were okay and if they needed medical attention. The father told me that they were okay, and that his daughter said she was okay. The young girl confirmed that she was okay, but her eyes said something else. I knew that look. It was pure fear. The father was on his cell phone, so I told him I was going to check on the other driver.
As I approached the driver who at first was in the driver’s seat, had gone to the trunk of her car (when I approached the father), then the passenger seat (before I finished speaking with him), and was now quickly approaching me with her hand inside of her purse. She looked infuriated and very focused. That’s when the small voice said, “stop her and calm her down” so I did. I verbally reassured her that I was a concerned driver who wanted to make sure that everyone was okay. I put my hands up slowly and I told her that I knew what she was going through. She then said, “he called the cops and he’s going to lie on me and say this is my fault“. I could see the panic in her eyes and it was coming through clearly in her voice. At that point I knew that I needed to spend more time with her. She was alone with no one to comfort her and tell her it would be okay. The father had reassurance coming from the other end of the phone line, and his daughter got reassurance from him.
I asked the woman had she called anyone, and she said that the other driver called the police. So I asked her again had she called anyone, someone she knew who could console her, and help her through this. She started crying and said, “no“. So I did something without thinking about it. I obeyed the next two words that came to me. I saw her name tag said, “Carrie Ann” and that she worked at Zoo Atlanta, and I said, “Carrie Ann right now you’re in shock and what you need more than anything is a hug. So I’m going to hug you Carrie Ann.” I leaned in and gave this total stranger a hug on the side of the highway. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t contemplate what her reaction would be. I obeyed that voice that said, “hug her, comfort her“.
As I held her in my arms I told her, “I know what you are experiencing and it’s fear and gratitude. Fear in knowing that you just experienced a trauma, and gratitude that you are alive and unharmed. Carrie Ann you survived this and no matter what you are thinking and feeling right now, you will survive the aftermath of this crash. There could have been serious injuries even death, but all is well and right. You are okay Carrie Ann, the father and daughter from the other car are okay….” As I spoke Carrie Ann embraced me tighter and at that very moment I told her it was okay to cry and let it out, so she did, and hugged me tighter. Once we could both sense that small ‘release’ we let our arms down and looked at each other.
A tow truck pulled up and I said, “see, it’s almost over” and as I directed her to sit in the passenger seat of the car or on the guard rail, a fire truck pulled up. Carrie Ann sat on the guard rail, and even though still shaken, she was better than when I first approached her. She was no longer looking like the panic-stricken woman who thought she would be blamed and found guilty of causing an accident. As the first responders approached I thanked them for getting there quickly (lovingly ignoring the rolling eyes of the first guy who approached), and I gave Carrie Ann another hug and told her she would be okay. As I began to walk away she burst out in tears. I think she was having that big ‘release’ we all get when it hits us that we’re being ‘saved’.
I approached the father and the tow truck driver, and asked the father again was he okay. He said yes and thanked me for helping. The tow truck driver asked how was I involved, and I said that I was a concerned citizen who just pulled over to help. He thanked me and said that we need more people willing to stop and help. After checking on the little girl and gaining reassurance that she was okay, I left the drivers with the fire fighters. I asked the tow truck driver to slide the sign that was crushed under the car, off the highway on ramp so that other drivers wouldn’t hit it and possibly cause more damage to the father’s car or to theirs. The tow truck driver agreed and slid the sign out of the pathway.
Even without knowing how things would turn out, or if the drivers would turn their fear and confusion on me, I was filled with such peace the entire time. As I walked to my car I just kept repeating silently, “thank you“. Inside my car I looked through my rear view mirror and saw a second fire truck pulling up. I had done what I was supposed to do. Be there for people in need, and bring some calm during a time of chaos.
I think of the multitude of cars that drove by before I got there, the large number that drove by while I was there, and the countless others that drove by after I had left. There were tons of looky-loos but no one pulled over to help.
How many people considered for a brief second, “should I pull over?” but didn’t. How many people said, “that’s not my problem, it’s not me or a loved one”? How many people saw a black male driver and a white female driver, and thought to themselves, “that may turn into a volatile situation and I don’t want to get caught up in that mess”? How many people were torn with their decision to keep driving even when they saw the little girl with fear all over her face?
I’ve done it before. Matter of fact I couldn’t even tell you how many times over the years when I said a prayer for those involved in car accidents or seemingly stranded on the side of the road or highway, but out of fear, preoccupation, or convincing myself that it really wasn’t my issue, I didn’t stop. I’ve called 911 when I’ve seen accidents, even in real-time, but I haven’t always stopped to check on those involved.
Heck, Saturday evening (maybe 3 hours after helping out the three in the car accident) I didn’t stop to help a man in a black SUV with his hood up. I obeyed the voice that said to check to make sure he was okay, so I visually saw he was and that he had a passenger (although I couldn’t see their face) but I didn’t stop and ask if they were okay. I didn’t verbally confirm that they were okay. Maybe it was the area that I was in and that it was dark outside, that he hadn’t turned on his hazard lights, I was with my mom, and I couldn’t clearly see their faces, so fear and self-preservation overruled everything else. It happens to all of us. But when those variables (of safety) aren’t present, and that faint voice tells you to act, we should act.
No matter what you call God, no matter what you call the voice you hear that tells you to do or say something in love, no matter what your gut tells you, just obey. You could be the very presence someone needs at that very moment. You could be the balance needed to create or maintain calm, peace, and order. You could save someone’s life. Your presence could prevent someone from being victimized. Maybe your act of care and kindness will be returned to you one day. Let’s pay it forward in advance!
Remember your ‘gut’ keeps you out of harms way, it’s ignoring it that draws you in to drama and danger.
Oh, and if anyone knows Carrie Ann from Zoo Atlanta, tell her that Natasha is thinking of her and praying for her. If anyone knows the father and his brave daughter who were involved in the car accident, tell them that I’m thinking of them and praying for them. Tell the father that I commend him for keeping focused on his daughter and getting help, and not feeding off the energy that was trying to grow from the situation.
Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.
By Natasha Foreman Bryant