Motivating people to practice intentional acts of kindness

Intimate Experiences Can Build Family Unity

As a father I have always tried to be available and ready to help my children in times of crisis. So I jumped crisply out of bed that Friday at midnight when my son arrived at the bedroom door with the dismal news that the car had failed him. He had gotten a ride home, and the balky vehicle was parked safely on the side of a street several blocks away.

“We better go get it,” I said.

"Right now?” he responded.

“We might as well,” I replied. So off we went in our family's other car.

The accelerator had broken. I tried to fix it, but I knew right away I couldn't. Nevertheless I spent a few minutes poking around with a flashlight under the hood and down on the floorboard. Finally I reasoned that the car would start and that my son could drive it home at idle speed. So I told him to start it and that I would follow him.

I quickly tired of the tediously slow pace, so I honked the horn, got his attention and said I would push him. It would be much faster that way. At the speedier pushing pace, we proceeded with improved hopes of salvaging a normal night of sleep.

Caught by the police
We had progressed about half a block when a car approached from the opposite direction with its bright lights glaring. Soon the car was directly in front of us, encroaching on our lane in such a way that we were forced to stop. We waited with irritation and apprehension. In about 10 seconds it became stunningly clear it was a Los Angeles County sheriff.

He left his car and approached my son in the disabled car. Standing several yards away with obvious caution, the sheriff ordered him, “Get out of the car. Slowly!” "We have a call that you are stealing this car. Do you have any proof of ownership?” I heard the sheriff say.

At this moment I noticed in my rear-view mirror that two more police cars had parked behind me and that a fourth was approaching from the front. Then suddenly a tremendous explosion of light hit us. It was the police helicopter circling overhead, its searchlight pinning us down. We were really caught!

Cleared up
Fortunately, the matter was quickly cleared up. We were legitimate—somewhat to the disappointment, it seemed, of the sheriffs. My son and I continued home with a great story we eagerly told for quite a few days afterward to anyone who would listen.

What had I accomplished as a father in this surprising midnight adventure? For one, I had reinforced the model of being there and being ready to help in times of crisis. I did not groan or complain but showed myself approachable.

But probably the more important fringe benefit flowing from our impromptu outing was the memory we created together. We shared something ineradicable: an unforgettable and priceless vignette no one could ever take away from us. It was our adventure—nobody else's. In a subtle way, it contributed to a lifetime of delicate bonding between father and son.

Searching through the archives of your own heart and mind, what do you find? What kind of collection is there? Studying your own childhood or adolescent memories may give you a clue to the kind of events that create those special memories.

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Dr. James Kok

Dr. James Kok is the founder of the Care and Kindness Campaign