12 March 2014

Angels Among Us

In our family we've elected that rather than have big birthday parties with lots of kiddies running amok we like to put that same time, energy and money into a special adventure for our birthday girl. She's one hundred percent behind this too which is the only way it would work.

For her third birthday we learned quickly that birthday parties and cost can quickly spin out of control. When we tallied up everything we spent that year it was well over $300 including a birthday bike. But we were appalled. So since then we have simplified a lot but I think our birthday celebrations have become much more memorable.

Saturday was our big birthday celebration day, calendared for some time. I put in quite a few hours researching options and feeling out several of them to see what would work and where the best places to go would be. My goal for our family and for this day was to go somewhere nearby that we had never been before. Having lived in SoCal most of my adult life it's stunning how much I have yet to explore. It's easy to get into a rut of going to the same museums, beaches, parks and amusements.

That morning we got up early, packed up everything we would need, put the bikes on the bike rack (which is no easy feat!) and headed off on our adventure to Orange County. About thirty minutes from home I heard strange noises and suddenly realized that something was very wrong with the car. Within seconds my hazard lights were on and we were limping from the carpool lane across the entire freeway, off the closest off ramp and into a tire shop just off the exit. We thought we had a flat tire which we quickly realized wasn't the case when we had a chance to look. After a half hour wait, the technician at the tire shop came and looked under our car and said the ever dreaded words "Transmission." UGH...

This was the real low point of the day. What would we do with the car? Would it even be worth it to repair the car or would we finally decide to just junk it this time? This is a car that is in fantastic shape for the most part but getting old. We have already put over $1300 in repairs in the past eight months and the transmission has already been replaced once. Was our adventure already over just a few miles from home? How were we going to get home?! Dismal way to start things out.

Then angels began gently flapping their wings around us. Our first miracle was that everyone in our car kept their cool. This was a big day and it was potentially wrecked not to mention the added stress of impending car repairs. We emptied our things out of the car, stacked them nicely in a corner by the building and then The Man and The Bug played ball. The tech at the tire shop went into action. He recommended a shop near by that we could have the car towed to and recommended a way he thought the car might be easily repaired that would render 4x4 driving over but would allow us to keep using the car. Since we never use 4x4 in the city that is a great possibility for use that we never would've known about had he not said something.

Next I was on the phone with the transmission shop. He was so kind. Within minutes he had a tow truck dispatched to us and had given us a great recommendation on a car rental company and a special shop rate his company had with them. While their transmission shop would be closing for the weekend within an hour or so, he promised to lock our car inside one of their garages to protect all three of our bikes strapped and locked on the back. He solved all our problems and concerns in the blink of an eye. Not long after the car was towed away a car rental rep was picking us up in the tire store parking lot and taking us to their office to get us a car. He was very nice to upgrade us and he had us on our way in a few minutes time. Celebration day saved!

Within two hours of our original departure, we were back on the road to our final destination. Things worked out quite perfectly from there when we arrived at Balboa Island, found an easy parking spot near the ferry and walked right onto a ferry waiting there. We got to the peninsula and immediately saw the tour boat operator that would take us on our planned tour around the bay. At the ticket window I asked when the next tour was (hooray, just ten minutes from departure) and a little about the two different tour options. I casually mentioned we were there celebrating our daughter's birthday and our day had almost been wreck by the car breakdown and how very happy I was that we arrived.

I asked him if they had military discounts and he said yes. Then he got a little crinkle of a smile on his face and said, "You know what I'm going to do today? You are going to go for free." Then he handed me three tickets, retail value about $65. The Man and I were both standing there stunned. We graciously and repeatedly thanked him. We could not believe it. People don't do things like that anymore do they??? These days you hear about people being fired for doing something kind like that for guests.

As we walked down the plank to the awaiting boat we just kept looking at each other in awe. We talked about every person we had crossed paths with since the car breakdown. Each and every one had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us out on this special day. We had thanked each one repeatedly but I hoped deep down in my heart that each one would feel our gratitude in days to come and remember how much their kindness meant to our little family as they helped us save our little adventure for a dear, sweet little girl's birthday. I have been praying since then that each of these people will in some way feel the depth of our appreciation again and again. When I shared this experience with a friend she said, "Well God was really just trying to show off for you, wasn't He." I loved that sentiment. Sure something bad was happening but God surrounded us with angels who took care of everything.

Our day turned out fantastically. It was really special day for our little family. That night we left for home completely exhausted and so happy. I'll share more about it tomorrow. But I had to share about our angels first. I think it's important, in a world where there is so much anger, meanness and hardship for us all to see and know that there are still angels among us who will go out of their way to be kind and more helpful than they even need to be. Thank you to our angel at the tire shop, the transmission shop, the car rental agency and the tour boat ticket office. You will be long remembered.

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