79: A Christmas Rescue

79: A Christmas Rescue

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

A Christmas Rescue

In Canada, the colder the winter is, the warmer the people are.

~Jean Charest

The car sputtered as we drove through the tiny, still town of Elrose, Saskatchewan. I looked over at my husband Ron and fear froze the words in my throat. His brow furrowed as he stared at the drifting snow on the deserted highway. The lone service station was closed, of course. It was Christmas Day.

I hadn’t wanted to make the trip. It was dangerously cold, with the temperature dipping close to –40 degrees. Our white Plymouth had passed its best-before date long ago, and while it was usually reliable, in that kind of weather our lives depended on it. I wasn’t comfortable with that.

That year, Christmas Day was the only time we could venture from our home in Martensville, Saskatchewan, for the three-hour trip to my in-laws’ home in Swift Current. My husband’s extended family would be waiting for us to open gifts, consume the scrumptious feast prepared by Mom and the sisters, and enjoy one another’s company.

But it was freezing. Even though our three young children were safely bundled from head to toe and huddled under a blanket in the back seat, I worried about what might happen if we had car trouble. Then the old Plymouth sputtered again.

If you’ve ever travelled Highway 4 between Rosetown and Swift Current in Saskatchewan, you know how desolate the forty miles appeared between each of the three small towns that separate the two larger centres. Farm fields stretched from one horizon to the other, the small towns the only oases of civilization. And on Christmas Day, all businesses were closed. In fact, we seemed to be the only ones foolish enough to be travelling on such a bitterly cold holiday. In front of us and behind us, the road was empty except for our coughing, sputtering white Plymouth.

“Lord God, help us,” I whispered. It wasn’t my most eloquent prayer, but it was heartfelt. I knew He could change the weather, but obviously that wasn’t His plan. It didn’t seem right for our family to freeze to death on Jesus’s birthday, but as first the car, and then its heater slowed, my faith faltered.

Our ten-year-old son spoke up from the back seat. “What’s wrong with the car?”

“Are we almost there?” the four-year-old boy asked.

“I’m cold!” our daughter, age eight, chimed in.

“The car is acting up, but we’ll be okay,” I said, and struggled to keep my voice steady. “God sees us and knows what we need.” But my anxious heart wasn’t convinced.

My husband pulled over to the shoulder of the highway as our car crawled and then just died. I wondered how long it would be before anyone noticed a white car on a snowy highway bordered by flat, white fields from horizon to horizon.

As the car coughed one final time, my husband glanced into the rearview mirror.

“Where did that guy come from?”

We knew no one else had been on the highway since Elrose, but now there was a black half-ton parked behind us, and a young man was walking toward our car. He tapped on the driver’s window, and Ron rolled it down.

“I noticed your white exhaust a while back and knew you were in trouble. You need some gas line antifreeze. I’ve got some. I’ll put it in your tank, and you should be good as new.”

Still puzzled, we thanked him. He opened the cap to the gas tank and pulled a small container from his coat pocket. We heard faint gurgling as the antifreeze worked its way into the tank. A moment later, the man was at my husband’s window again.

“Now try it.”

Ron turned the key. The car sputtered back to life, and was soon running smoothly.

“Where are you headed?” the young man asked.

“Swift Current,” replied Ron.

“I’ll follow you to make sure you get there.”

Despite our sincere thank you, we couldn’t adequately express our gratitude. He just waved his hand and headed back to his truck. As we continued toward our destination, I kept glancing in my side mirror. He was still there. For more than an hour, every time I glanced behind us, the reassuring bulk of the black half-ton truck remained in sight.

When we reached the edge of the valley where the city of Swift Current nestled, we all cheered. Just another half-mile downhill and we’d be safe in the arms of loved ones.

I glanced in my mirror one more time. The road behind us was empty.

God hadn’t changed the weather for us, and He hadn’t kept our car from failing. But He hadn’t deserted us either. He’d sent a young man in a big, black truck to take care of us when we needed it. Was that man an angel? I don’t know. But I am convinced he was sent by God, not only to put some antifreeze in our gas line, but to remind us that God is always with us.

The colourful packages we exchanged that Christmas Day have faded from my memory, but I’ll never forget the gift of that young man and his truck. And ever since that day I’ve wondered, do angels drive black half-tons?

~Kathleen E. Friesen

Coldstream, British Columbia

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