A Stranger's Choice
Random Act of Kindness Leaves Lasting Impact
2,700 miles from home. A highway slathered in snow and ice. The temperature far below freezing.
As 81-year-old Bill Briggs braced the steering wheel, he knew this Alaskan drive would be difficult. But he was determined to get his granddaughter Ellen and her trusty pooch Annie home for the holidays.
“My granddaughter finished a medical internship in Alaska this past December,” said Bill. “I didn’t want her traveling alone in these conditions. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I’m used to slicker than slick.”
But as the trio began their trek on the Alcan Highway, Bill and his crew found themselves in a terrifying situation.
“I was about 70 miles out, with poor visibility,” Bill explained. “Before I knew it, the road curved – and my back tire caught the shoulder of the highway.”
In a matter of seconds, Bill’s SUV turned into an erratic Tilt-A-Whirl, spinning out of control, eight feet down an embankment and into the path of an unforgiving tree.
The family closed their eyes. Ellen clutched Annie--bracing for the impact.
And then there was silence.
“I saw it happen”
On that Saturday morning State Farm agent Glenn Marlin found himself driving behind a mid-sized SUV. “It was snowing so hard I could not see the license plate," said Glenn. But I remember thinking, ‘I bet this driver isn’t from around here...’”
Minutes later, the State Farm agent watched in horror as the SUV spiraled off the road and out of sight. “I thought they rolled it,” said Glenn. “I immediately pulled over and ran to the scene.”
A Close Call
Peering over the embankment, Glenn saw the vehicle had skidded to a halt. “I ran down and helped the family out of their SUV,” he said. “Thankfully everyone was okay - but the vehicle wasn’t. It had two flat tires, and there was no way to get it out of that hole.”
Glenn dialed roadside assistance, and helped the family with their claim. "The hardest part was explaining where we were,” he said. “We were on the outskirts of town and not many cars pass this way. It took about three hours for the wrecker to arrive."
"I'm so glad Glenn was there," said Ellen. "It was freezing, and Grandpa and I would have been all by ourselves. Not to mention my dog Annie was scared to death.”
As the sun began to set – Glenn waited with the family, inviting them to hunker down in his truck until help arrived. Over hot coffee and conversation, the group talked, reminisced and even shared a few laughs.
“It’s a real nice thing he did,” said Bill. “When you’re facing a frigid situation alone – it means so much when someone stops to lend a hand.”
“Bill was great,” added Glenn. “After 80 plus years, he has terrific stories. I wish we lived closer.”
Later that afternoon the tow-truck arrived. Glenn and the family exchanged information, wished each other well and parted ways.
“I never expected my Saturday to go like that,” said Glenn. “And you know what? It was 100 percent worth it to help this family.”
A Time to Reflect
In hindsight, Bill says there’s much to be thankful for on that fateful day. He and his family were not hurt, their SUV would get repaired, and he was also reminded of this age-old lesson:
A random act of kindness goes a long way.
“What are the chances it would be Glenn who stopped?” Bill smiled. “He was knowledgeable, accommodating and above all else, this stranger – is now a friend.”
“I’m here to help,” added Glenn. “And I’m happy to do it. Pay it forward for others – and let the cycle of kindness continue.”
Click on the + in the interactive image below for more on the impact of "random acts of kindness."