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Anne Frank was right: no need to wait to improve the world.

For seemingly one of the few days this winter, it wasn't raining last Saturday afternoon in Durham and the open sunroof was actually that - a sun roof.

So what was that wet stuff on my face as I turned left off of Carver Street onto Guess Road?


Egads!!! Yes, tears, and here's what happened.

I was third in line at the light to make the turn when the arrow changed to green, yet no one was moving. I didn't honk my horn - I've seen too many violent confrontations that started because somebody blew their horn and somebody else blew their top - but I peered around the other cars to see what was causing the holdup ahead: turned out that a man whose truck had cut off in the middle of the intersection was laboring to push it out of traffic. He had the driver's door open and was trying with limited success to push and steer at the same time.

Like most of you, whenever I see a stalled car, my first thought is "Gee, glad it isn't me." My second thought is "How can I help?"

I concluded that I was too far back to be of any real help, but three men in three different vehicles concluded otherwise. They - like a choreographed flash mob fixing to do the Macarena - leaped from their vehicles and converged on the stalled truck. Within seconds, they'd pushed it into a nearby parking lot and, without even waiting for a thank you, run and jumped back into their cars and driven away.

Because many people cynically subscribe to the philosophy "If I don't see it, it didn't happen," I reached for my cell phone to try to record for posterity the good deed being done before my eyes.

Alas, the three Good Samaritans had alighted from their vehicles and gotten the stranger out of danger so fast that I was still fumbling with the phone - trying to find "Camera" - when they'd already jumped back into their cars and driven away.

I drove away, too, but a half-mile up the street decided to go back and talk to the man in the broke-down truck. I turned around, returned and introduced myself. His name, I learned, was Gabriel, and he was on the phone trying to get someone to come help him. When he got off the phone, it became obvious that he was not yet ready to see the silver lining in the dark cloud of his breakdown.

Instead, he was steamed that, presumably, the rebuilt starter he'd had installed had knocked off. That was my cue to get in my own old truck and split.

Not much makes me cry: the last five minutes of Claudine and incidences of man's inhumanity to man come to mind.

So, apparently, do instances of man's humanity to man, because when I saw three strangers immediately jump from their vehicles and rush to help a man they didn't know, I felt my heart strings being yanked. I started bawling and was glad it was just me in the truck.

With all that's going on in the world today, it would be easy to conclude that the bad guys are winning - heck, have won - and that people only care about themselves and what affects them.

Right here before me, though, was evidence that all is not lost, that people can still care for others.

Not only did the men rush to Gabriel's aid, but I don't remember hearing any honking horns or shouts of "Get that raggedy piece of #$!&%^&* out of the way."

A line from Anne Franks diary that people seem to quote more than any other is "In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart."

I don't. I'm too old, too jaded, have seen too much to believe that. There is, though, another line from her diary that resonates: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." I was privileged to see three men who didn't wait.





Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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