Frankly, I don’t very often start a voice mail message with the phrase “This is an emergency.” But that was the message I left on Pastor Erin’s cell phone after discovering my van had been towed from the parking lot behind the lovely boutique hotel where my hosts had lodged me the prior night. I was the guest presenter at a day-long arts-integrated worship renewal workshop at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Riverside, a lovely community two or three hours distant from my home – depending on the traffic through LA.

And I was about to drive the final ten blocks to my destination with plenty of time to spare before the 10 am gathering when I exclaimed to a nicely dressed woman standing in the parking lot, “My car is gone!”  With a dour expression she responded without sympathy, “Your car has been towed” and handed me a glossy business card for Rock Bottom Towing Inc located in a community a good number of miles distant. Can’t say I was panicked, but dumbfounded and rattled? You bet.

How was I going to find where the van had been towed in an unfamiliar city? How was I going to get there? How was I going to retrieve my van full of art supplies before the workshop started? My rattling settled a bit when I remembered that I’d unloaded the art supplies at the church the prior afternoon; everything was ready to go as soon as I arrived. I made a second, less desperate call to the workshop coordinator asking if she could pick me up. Within minutes Rory was curbside to rescue  me. More calls to the towing company let me know there was a set fee for “rescuing” the van and I could pick up it any time later that day. The after-hours guy just said, “Call me thirty minutes before so I can met you there.” Ok, you bet.

Can’t say I asked for any particular peace to overcome me or to rescue me from anxiety even though Rory might have prayed about it at the beginning of the morning session. Gratefully, I was centered in the activities before us and present with the folks that had gathered for the day. The still-to-be-resolved problem with the van never crossed my mind until the end of workshop. We had a wonderful time together making meaningful art that expressed some of the gathering elements of a worship service, sharing our stories, and being surprised at the spiritual depth that art-making could achieve. Pastor Erin had arranged for one of the participants to drive me to the tow company lot by the time I placed my call to the after-hours guy. Armed with directions, we were mostly packed and on our way by 3:15.

Peggy, my driver, was a presenter’s delight. A retired school teacher, she was enthusiastic and smiled all day long no matter what we were doing. She embraced finding Rock Bottom Towing with the same sense of adventure especially when it took me four more phone calls to eventually find the storage yard well off the beaten path behind yet other towing and storage companies. First we’d gone to far. Then did we turn left or right? Now look for the cactus. The after-hours guy stood waiting outside the hurricane fence as he coached us closer and closer with each call.  

We were elated to find him…and the van… in a scruffy, dusty compound complete with junk yard dogs. With my driver’s license and the car’s registration in hand, he filled out the necessary paperwork while Peggy and I waited outside with his co-worker. He returned my card as I signed a $355 “rescue the van” credit charge. We chatted about my confusion of where I was supposed to park at the hotel and our adventure in finding Rock Bottom. The co-worker eventually commented with some wonder how good natured we were after I complimented the after-hours guy on how helpful he’d been. Peggy and I explained in some detail how we’d spent the whole day making art at a worship renewal workshop and it was pretty hard not to be in a good mood. With that the after-hours guy said, “Well, if you’d called again, I was gonna come rescue you if I had to!”

We were transferring art supplies from Peggy’s car to mine when Rory drove up. She’d rescued a tote bag full of art supplies I’d unknowingly left behind. With effusive thanks all around, we each headed home, grateful for cell phones, helpful folks, graced good attitudes, and eventful memories. I am especially grateful to have been gracefully rescued from an experience that might have been otherwise.

If you’ve ever reacted to a stressful experience with more grace than you imagined, what was it? What do you think that grace was all about? If you’ve been rescued, what is your rescue story? What picture, poem, or story would you create to memorialize that event?


2 comments to Rescue

  • Erin Thomas


    SO sorry this happened! You were calm and collected, I never would have been, I don’t think. I had my car stolen once and so know that feeling of shock.

    WE LOVED your workshop and the art that came out of it was amazing!

    Thanks again for coming and using your gifts.


  • Robin Rice

    Wow! I am not very good at staying calm in such situations. My husband helps – he is better at taking a step back. I remember a cancelled flight home from Florida – end of a long vacation with two kids, arrive at airport, wait two hours and then find out can’t fly home until the next day. I wanted to stuff the kids inside the suitcases and ship them home on a truck! But Dan found a nearby hotel with a swimming pool and all was well. He took the kids to the pool and left me to stew in the room. Staying calm has become much easier in my old age!
    Good for you! You turned this event into something memorable.

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