Defying Expectations

You’re not supposed to jump fully clothed in a muddy river to help some stranger, a foreigner, extract their car.

When my wife and I visited Costa Rica 10 years ago, we experienced the worst roads. Except for the main thoroughfare in the north, all the roads were dirt and full of potholes. It was like riding an elephant. You couldn’t go very fast and every few seconds was incredibly jarring.

After a few rainy days in the forest, the clouds cleared and we were determined to hit the beach. What appeared to be just a two-hour drive on the map turned into an all-day adventure.

dart frog
Poison Dart Frog

We kept encountering rivers running through the roads we needed to use. No exaggeration. They were strong currents and impassable. So we drove around until we hit another similar roadblock. Since this was off-season, we didn’t run into many tourists, or anyone, in the countryside. We began to worry how this would end for us as the sun began to set. We were in the middle of farm land evidently encircled by rivers, and we were no closer to the coastline than when we started that day.

In frustration, we planned to plow through the next obstacle. Unfortunately our beat-up vehicle wasn’t the power horse we needed.

Mid-stream, we got stuck. You could hear the water gurgling into the tail pipe. The situation went south fast. No matter the gear, we were stuck in mud and thigh-high water. After 5 minutes of futile pushing, a motorcyclist sped by on the banks above us. The silhouette showed a woman riding on the back. They stopped without hesitation. They spoke no English and we spoke no Spanish. So we mimed. He pointed the wheels toward the slope and I would push. Then we switched and he would push and I would step on the gas.

The young man got soaked and when the wheel spun hopelessly, it spit mud onto his entire body. We laughed. He persisted and eventually got us out of the pit and back where we came from. If we had gone forward, just 20 yards further, there was another river that would have been impossible to cross. So reverse turned out to be the right answer.

When the vehicle was restored, we rinsed in the river and shook hands. I took out a wad of wet money from my pocket and handed it to him, but he refused. Then they hopped on their motor bike and went on their way.

We were in such a desperate situation and the natives made such a sacrifice that we’ll never forget.

Certainly selfless acts occur all the time, but rarely do we hear about them. This interaction encouraged my faith in humanity and made me want to do the same for others. Ultimately, that’s living and I believe our news media largely focuses on the wrong things.

I seek more examples of ordinary people living selflessly and standing up to what’s expected, what others authorize, and what statistics say. Instead of idolizing superheroes, we should be recognizing the heroes that walk among us every day, the every day underdogs.

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