Tasked with writing a letter expressing gratitude to someone who changed their lives but whom they never thanked, my students have a project this Thanksgiving to write the letter of gratitude and to surprise the person they are thanking by reading the letter aloud to them. Today it seems appropriate to express my gratitude to the total stranger in Germany who came to our aid one cold November afternoon.
During my first Fulbright year teaching in Neresheim, Germany, I was on my drive home up the hill past the monastery with my two children in tow. We had just been to the doctor and had picked up medicine. I thought it odd that cars were off both sides of the road with people standing outside them. When I approached the top of the hill, the car came to a stop. Only then did I realize that I was driving on sheer ice. The day had been overcast, and by afternoon, the fog and mist caused the road to freeze. Major highways were sanded near the town, but no salt was used on streets.
I applied the brakes and thought over quickly what I was going to do. I could not drive up the hill, but backing down the hill didn’t seem a good option either. Was I to spend the night in the town and try to drive home the next morning? When I decided to back down the hill, I glanced in the rear view mirror and almost jumped out of my seat. I saw a man’s face. He came around to the driver’s side, and I quickly explained that my children were sick, and I was trying to get them home from the doctor’s. But where did he come from?
This perfect stranger told me to drive ahead up the hill while he pushed the car at the same time. It was miraculous how this maneuver worked. Just when I had gone over the top of the hill and wanted to stop to thank this man for his kindness, he simply motioned for me to drive on and not stop. All I could do was shout out Danke (thanks) to the man as I drove home.
Today, I want to personally express my gratitude to this man for helping us in our hour of need. I have never forgotten him and truly appreciate his kindness. Although I realize he can’t listen as I read my letter of gratitude to him, I think he must know in his heart. So today I want to thank him for his good deed.