Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Pat O'Connell Story

The car broke down at Stoney Point Campground. My nephew was told my the Ranger that the closest Tow Truck was Pat O'Connell of Three Rivers. So they called him. Pat arrived, attached the vehicle and it was decided my nephew and his cousin would accompany the vehicle. The rest of the family would continue the vacation and return in the other vehicles.

It was obvious that this group of people were Muslim. The women dressed covered head to foot, the men bearded, and most looked like they came from Pakistan or India. Pat must have been interested because he asked questions about who they were and where they came from. These two were students, working themselves through college.

When they arrived at Three Rivers Pat suggested he take them to Visalia. He told them the auto shops, restaurents, motels if they end up needing one, would all be cheaper and they'd have easier access. So the young men told him they would pay for  the extra mileage. Pat shrugged and drove on to Visalia, Pat asking more and more questions. My nephew found Pat refreshing, a very open man willing to learn something about their religion without judgement, very unusual.

As they passed through Visalia Pat said, "I have nothing else to do today. How about I drive you to LA?" They were stunned and of course said, no. It was too much trouble, too far, and it was nice of him, but... Pat insisted. So they said they'd pay him, not really knowing how much it would truly cost, but my nephew said he'd give Pat whatever was in his wallet, plus the cousins wallet.

They had a very chatty nice trip and when they arrived at my nephew's home, Pat unhooked the vehicle. The young men took out wallets, and handed Pat whatever was in them. Pat refused. They were flabbergasted and insisted. He told them to finish school, take good care of their families, and have a good life. That was payment enough. He got in his truck and returned to Three Rivers.

My nephew said he thinks of Pat a lot these days when the airways are filled with hatred toward Islam. He uses Pat as an example of how simple acts of kindness truly matter, bridge divides and it has effected his decisions about how he treats people.

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