A simple kindness changes a life

Doug, Eve and Rainbow in Taylor Park

I live my life today by the selfless action of someone I’ll never meet.

The Mother Folkers

Roughly 23 years ago, my husband Doug and I were driving home late at night.

We had been at an after-concert celebration in Denver with my bandmates.

Photo re-creation, Ellen Audley

We exited the interstate on a cloverleaf, behind a semi-trailer. As we merged into the divided thoroughfare into town, the trucker slowed down.

As I tried to pass him, he moved to the left to block me. I moved back to the right, trying to figure out what was up. I’m sure I let some frustrated expression fly on his behalf. I regrouped, and tried to pass again.

As before, he blocked our passage by moving left, and we both returned right.

A split second later, blinding headlights filled the left lane. An oncoming car hurtled past us in a blur almost too fast to see, with a terrible sound I still remember.

At this point, the trucker almost stopped.

Gradually it began to dawn on us that the trucker had likely just saved our lives…spared us from a wrong-way driver doing about 100 miles per hour.

Mom with Collin and Eve, at the zoo,

Both vehicles crept along, and eventually we pulled alongside him at a light. Doug made some shocked, thankful gesture to him, and we headed home to our sleeping children and my watchful mother.

This following story is dedicated to that trucker, who risked his life to protect us. In a usual week, I think about a lot of things I’ve learned from people. I share some of them here. Everything that follows is possible because of him.

I’ve been with my husband Doug for 38 years. It was pretty much love at first sight.

These trees are a metaphor for how we’ve grown together: neither tree complete without the other but independent just the same.

We’ve raised our kids Collin….

…and Eve

The influence of my parents, in-laws, and my parents’ best friends is close to the surface, every day.

Dad, graduating from Marine flight school (WWII bomber pilot) | John and partner Rena, on a special day — making happy memories

My father John loved to listen to music and dance. I learned an appreciation of lyrics and melody from him.

Two of his favorite expressions I try to live by came from song lyrics:

“T’Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” and

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing).”

Virginia with Eve

My mother Virginia loved children, nature, animals, flowers, gardening, cooking for family, and a good book. One of her favorite expressions was, “Don’t go borrowing trouble.”

This means don’t say things, or go looking for information that will create a crisis or disagreement with another person.

When she was 80, she still liked to watch the Perseids meteor shower from the bed of a pick-up truck while camping.

Jim and Ruth, traveling

Doug’s mother Ruth had three daily rules that I do my best to accomplish:

• Do something nice for someone without anyone knowing

• Make a new friend

• Learn something new

Happy in search of striped bass, Montauk, New York

Her husband, who we called “Happy” took pleasure in making the best bowl of heart-healthy oatmeal most mornings, followed by a long walk.

I think of him when I appreciate the simple things in life.

Mary Jane “Jim” Hughes in India

My mother’s best friend Jim, taught me that the greatest gift you can give others is accept them how they are, and love them unconditionally — no matter what.

Her example convinced me that love is a powerful force, much like gravity or magnetism.

She often laughed so hard it sounded like she might die from laughing.

Ray Hughes, country music lover

My Dad’s best friend and Jim’s husband, Ray, loved cowboy music and the sound of a mandolin.

He loaned me my first mandolin as a teenager and I’ve played ever since.

He was always a “go with the flow” kind of guy, and saw the best in people.

I appreciate every day with the idea that it might not have been but for brave kindness of a stranger.

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