“If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Those are the lyrics from one of my favorite songs, “Help Somebody” by Van Zant. Those words have gotten me through times I didn’t think I would make it through. They’ve helped me understand situations I didn’t know why were happening. The song played on country radio in 2005 when it was first released and was burned on to a CD I keep in my car 12 years later.
It’s also the same song that was playing when rubber hit my windshield while I was driving north of Florida’s Turnpike last Sunday.
I had just spent a weekend at home. I absolutely love going home, it’s almost like taking an all inclusive vacation (thanks Mom!!!). More importantly, I love seeing my family and taking some time away from school. Plus, I’d take any chance I can get to see that adorable little nephew of mine!
But after a few short days, Sunday never fails to roll around and leaves me with no choice but to head back to Gainesville for my Monday classes. So, my mom fills my belly and several Tupperwares with Sunday dinner and sends me on my way. Leaving never gets easier.
I was only a few miles south of Fort Pierce when the motorcyclist in front of me blew his back tire. Debris flew at my windshield but I kept my eyes on the bike’s driver who was now sliding across the two lane highway. His bike tipped over and skidded from the right lane to the median. The motorcycle hit the metal barrier and I screamed when the man was thrown from his bike. His body landed approximately 20 feet away from the bike when it came to rest on the side of the road. Tears filled my eyes as I pulled my car over and threw on my hazards. The man was helmet-less and showed no signs of surviving the accident as his body laid motionless in the grass.
Traffic slowed when I started my sprint across the Turnpike, my shaky fingers dialing for an ambulance. Two other cars stopped made their way to the man as well. I called out to the biker hopelessly, unsure of what kind of response I was looking for. But to my surprise, he lifted his head and looked around. He was alive.
The man stood up as I approached him. He looked around and was clearly disoriented. He could barely stand but made his way over to his bike to examine the damage. He was in his late fifties with a muscular build.
Just then, the 911 operator came on the line, “Ambulance or patrol car?”
“Ambulance,” I said. “Definitely an ambulance. A man on a motorcycle just blew a tire and was thrown from his bike. I thought he was dead.” I watched as he looked at his bike, clearly upset and somewhat disappointed.
“Where are you,” she asked. I looked around. I had absolutely no clue where we were. No mile marker. No exit signs. No landmarks. You know how the Turnpike is.
“I don’t know, I have no idea. We’re headed north on the Turnpike. Maybe by Fort Pierce,” I told her. An older man was talking with the biker and a younger man around my age stood next to me. “Do you have any clue where we are,” I asked him.
“I can drop a pin,” he responded. Alright, no help from him. He ended up leaving less than five minutes later.
I heard the operator typing, so I turned to the biker. “You took quite a fall there, sir.” He looked at me. He had a short trimmed white beard and crystal blue eyes.
“Yeah, that was pretty bad, wasn’t it,” he joked. I laughed and asked him how he felt. He shrugged and said fine.
The operator chimed in. “Miss, are you talking to him?” She was just as shocked as I was.
“Yes, I am actually. He’s standing.”
“Have him sit down. Was he wearing a helmet? Does he have any obvious injuries? Is he in pain?”
“No ma’am, he didn’t have a helmet,” I said. I looked at his jeans and reflective yellow jacket. There was no blood stains and his eyes showed no signs of a concussion. I reported this back to the operator and she noted that he was quite lucky. I really couldn’t agree more.
“We’ll have an ambulance there soon. It may take a little for them to find you but they’ll be there. You’ll wait for them to come, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll wait,” I said. My mom isn’t going to like this whole standing-on-the-side-of-the-highway-waiting-for-an-ambulance-with-a-strange-man thing. “Thank you.” The call ended.
I went over to the man who was now standing with one of his biker buddies and the older man who stopped. I told him that an ambulance was going to come check him out. I expected him to be disagreeable but he nodded. Just the fact that the man was standing was an absolute miracle alone but I knew there could be non-visible injuries that could show their effects later on. He knew that too.
“Hey, thanks for stopping,” the biker said to me. I smiled at him. Why wouldn’t I?
When traffic slowed, I made my way back across the two lanes and waited by my car. The older man was parked behind me and he came to stand next to me.
“I thought he was dead,” he said.
“Me too, ” I replied, looking past the traffic and examining the biker who was now searching for his backpack with his friend. They both has cigarettes hanging from their teeth.
“You were right behind him,” he said turning to me, “You’re lucky you weren’t involved.”
He was right. I was paying attention to the road, keeping a good following distance, and maintaining a moderate speed. If I had taken my eyes off the road for just one second, the accident would have ended differently.
When the ambulance arrived, I got back into my car and drop off. I felt pleased with myself as my car gained speed. I made it just a few more miles when the traffic slowed again and people were pulling off the side of the road, avoiding something. It was then when I saw it, a multi-car pile up. There were three or four bodies scattered on the high way, blood and glass laying on the concrete. Many people had pulled over and were running from their cars to the scene. There were no ambulances on site yet. I thought about pulling over but in my heart, I knew there was nothing I could contribute. I saw flashing lights in the distance and willed them to drive faster.
I safely drove off that day and made it back to Gainesville to continue on with my daily life. I think about how lucky I was that day, but if I was being honest, I wouldn’t quite call it luck. That day, I felt saved. I felt as though that if I had not stopped to check on the biker, I would have been involved in that multi-car crash. After all, I had only missed the accident by a couple minutes at most.
I can say everything happens for a reason, but then I think about the bodies thrown from their cars on the side of the road. I find it hard to see the good in that. But these answers aren’t for me to know. Some reasons are too big for us to understand.
Take some time today to reflect on where you. Your place has meaning and purpose. Make your plans but understand that there is someone else who says, “For I now the plans I have for you.” (Jeremiah 29:11)