On a warm and beautiful summer day in Tennessee we began our road trip home to Florida. That is when it happened. A belt broke in the car, followed by a radiator failure, and we were forced to pull off to the side of a small two-lane highway. We got out of the car to survey the damage, and it was not good. Even worse, it was Sunday. There are very few stores open on Sundays there and no car repair shops.
My husband called for a tow to the nearest auto parts store. In the meantime, several Tennesseans stopped to see if they could help! My husband asked one of them, a young man, to give me, my sons, and my daughter a ride to the store. I was a bit annoyed at first. The most important thing about self-defense that I learned in martial arts was awareness, not putting yourself in harm’s way, and making good decisions. My husband said, “Three of you are black belts, just get in the car and go.”
It is true, my son, daughter and I are all black belts, and knowing there was no way to all get to the auto parts store in the tow truck, we piled in and hoped for the best. The young man was kind, explained where we were going, and asked us questions. There was no threat, but even if there was, I was sitting directly behind him and assessed what I would do in any given situation.
After we arrived, my husband and other son were dropped off by the tow truck. My husband said, “You won’t believe it. Some guy stopped and gave me his tools to use and told me to just leave them at the counter at the store when I was finished.”
“Finally,” I thought. A clear, concise reflection of goodness in the world. It exists.
As we struggled to fix the car in the parking lot, we realized there was one part that was missing that was not available at the store. We asked the store clerks if they could pick up the part, but they could not leave work. Out of the blue, the man who leant us his tools drove up in his white pick-up truck.
“How can I help?” he asked. Timing could not have been better. He took my son to two stores for a part and a tool, and when he came back, he hunkered down for several hours and helped fix the car. Still in disbelief that a total stranger would stop to help, he explained it simply as his duty to listen to what God asked him to do.
The lesson clearly unfolded and revealed a question we should all ask of ourselves. Has anyone ever popped into your life unexpectedly in a time of need? When you are at your lowest, has anyone ever stepped up to help you? I think you can identify a time in your life when something good happened unexpectedly and it renewed your faith and hope in the human spirit.
Martial arts contain many unexpected moments, and also many that renew your spirit. You never know what will happen, or who will come into your life. In my Tai Chi class, I have met wonderful people and practitioners. There is nothing that truly separates us, as we are all there for the same reasons. We do not try to impress each other or anyone else. We try to stay in unison during a form practice, but mostly I believe that we all hope to stretch our minds as much as our bodies, to know that we are capable of more, and to realize our place in the universe has meaning.Some seek healing from the inside out, and some, like me, focus on the meditative opportunities to be renewed.
It is a time to look inside. My instructor reminds us to “empty your cup,” and as difficult as it is, I know I want that more than anything, especially through life’s struggles. A few moments of respite from thoughts, fears, and worries is welcomed. Even positive people have those thoughts, and it is immensely important to let them go and to quiet the mind whenever possible.
The Tennesseans who stopped to help were a lot like my Tai Chi friends in many ways. They wanted nothing in return. Their intention was to help us on our way. It is a beautiful and concise metaphor for the way my Tai Chi practice patiently and warmly prepares me to find my way in life.
Life is full of positive moments if we choose to bring them to the forefront. And, if you feel there are not enough good moments, you can certainly do your part to create some. Step up and help, or make someone feel better, or say a kind word. Unexpectedly. Without reason. Just because.
I would never suggest getting in a car with a total stranger. I would never do it on a regular day. Sometimes options are limited and you have to carefully weigh the risks. Being kind, though, is something that we can do at any time, and the risk is minimal.
The Tennessee vacation was one of my best vacations ever. We rented a pontoon boat, went on kayaks, canoes, and paddle boarded. We climbed waterfalls and explored caves. And, just like my martial art practice, I had many moments to clear my mind in nature, and just let worries go. I think what I will remember the most about this vacation, though, was the kindness of the the Tennesseans who helped get us back on the road again.
This book shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts, and how they apply martial arts to their lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea F. Harkins is a writer, motivator, life coach, martial artist, and public speaker. She was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in July, 2017. Her book, The Martial Arts Woman, is now available at themartialartswoman.storenvy.com.