Angel #4...Two Guys from Ely

I feel much better now, having vented about two of my least favorite cultures…my least favorite for sure, at least here the U.S. of C. (United States of Capitalism), being the banking culture. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel capitalism is probably the best economic system. Doesn’t mean part of it isn’t broken and needs fixing. Capitalism has treated me fine. But I used the system to, I hope, help people. I mean what’s better than helping somebody? First I was a teacher, then a financial planner. I could have made more money cheating people. I had knowledge I could have used to my advantage, my clients’ disadvantage. But I couldn’t have lived with myself. I wanted to be fair. In that culture -- financial planning -- the expectation (actually mandated) is to work in the best interest of your client, NOT in your best interest. That just ain’t right and shouldn’t be in any culture. 

So, enough already. My sister, who lives in Ely, Minnesota – the ‘end of the road,’ (where Charles Kuralt-- after years of “On the Road,” traveling America’s biways – finally settled) ran into an angel. An 18 year old angel. And this reminded me of another angel, both from Ely. First, my sister: her car had broken down. She needed to get to the park a few blocks from her house one evening where she sells her jewelry. So she takes off walking with her case in one hand and her folding display table under the other arm. Unfortunately it was windy, making the table seem more like a kite. She is about 3 feet (actually 4’11’’ but looks 3 feet). Weighs about 99 pounds. She was having trouble to say the least. To her delight a middle-aged woman in a large open-bed (empty) pickup stopped. She asked if my sister was ok. My sister responded she was ok, but was having difficulty with the wind. The woman responded, “Oh, good,” and drove off. Maybe an angel in training?

An 18 year-old young man witnessing the scene came over, shaking his head, and asked if he could carry the table, which my sister took him up on. Kids and young adults get bashed these days for being self-centered and entitled. This one was apparently raised right.

So, another night a few years ago, we were having a friend and family barbeque at our in-town duplex we shared with our daughter, Alex. Another daughter, Adriann, was late and called to say she was about a mile away and would be there soon. In the time it took her to set her cell down, a BMW SUV in front of her slammed on his breaks to avoid a car going through a red light, and she rear-ended it. She made another call and through tears told us what had happened. My oldest daughter, Emily, whose car was the most assessable, and I hurried to the scene. There we saw the two cars in the middle of the intersection and one off to the side by the curb where a grey-haired man was hugging my daughter and a young man was pacing nervously.

As Emily and I came running over, the young man approached us claiming this was all his fault. That he had gotten confused – it is a confusing intersection with several roads converging (Hiway 100 and Excelsior Blvd if you know it) – and had gone through the red light. He seemed to be protecting Adriann, not wanting us to be critical…which, of course, we wouldn’t have been. The grey-haired gentleman, as it turned out, was consoling Adriann, who being a very nice person was quite upset at hitting his car. He was reassuring her that his insurance would take care of it.

Just then a police officer made the scene and the young man approached him immediately taking full responsibility for having caused the altercation. Now an a-hole might have been rationalizing that it wasn’t his fault, Adriann must have been tailgating…or that the BMW, if he was aware, should have been noticing he wasn’t stopping. Or the classic a-hole move, since his car, although it did cause the accident, was not involved would have been to speed off leaving his disaster behind and continued on to the movie he and his friends were headed to…probably a sadistic dark comedy.

But, no. This young man assumed responsibility for his actions, admirably admitting blame. When I told him he could leave, that the tow trucks had been summoned, the police seemed to have things under control, he answered that no, he wasn’t leaving until everything was cleaned up and he knew that everything was ok. He was wearing a Michigan sweatshirt, so I asked him if he was from there. He responded that no, he was a student at the University of Michigan but was from Ely Minnesota. Since I live on Lake Vermilion and Ely is in my neighborhood my heart swelled, maybe unreasonably, with pride.

I don’t know what happened to the BMW, but the gentleman was not angry, blaming Adriann, and even gave her a parting hug. The young man stayed until the bitter end, his two passengers, I’m sure bored and stewing. Adriann’s Escape was totaled. The only thing I regret was not getting the young man’s name and contact information. I have one unmarried daughter about the same age, and I certainly would have set up a blind date. I’m sure I would have liked his parents. My daughter is still unmarried…who knows?