Risk Your Fate

Today, on the side of a highway, I saved a woman’s life.  Some people have called me a “hero”, but I don’t think I am. All I did was follow my gut.

Do you trust your gut enough to take a risk?

As I pulled onto the busy entrance ramp, I noticed a car off the road on the highway above me. An elderly woman hunched over a guardrail as her daughter-in-law stood behind her, holding her up with one hand and attempting to flag help with the other.

No one stopped.

I immediately pulled over and ran up the steep hill full of thorny bushes. When I got to them, the younger woman was screaming for help, struggling to simultaneously hold her mother-in-law, flag cars down and call 911. The elderly woman’s airflow was completely blocked.

Without a thought, I raced behind her, wrapped my arms around her torso and yanked hard.

Once, twice, three times. Nothing.

I could hear the woman on the phone with the medics, relaying the scene, begging for help.

In a split second, I decided it was either give this all I had or watch this woman suffocate. I had to commit. I had to take the risk of breaking her ribs or having her sue me.

The choice was made: She wasn’t dying on my watch.

I gave a large, firm squeeze, this time lifting her right off her feet. A piece of bagel flew out her mouth, and the delightful sound of coughing and gasping for air came.

The daughter-in-law burst into tears, profusely thanking me. I wrapped my arms around her, rubbed her back, and told her everything was going to be okay.

She reached her hand out to me, “I’m Danielle.”

We shook hands, “I’m Jeanne.”

The elderly woman wiped her eyes, “I’m Marion… thank you. Thank you so much.”

Danielle was worried still, but Marion insisted she was fine and just wanted to go home and was half in the car before we could stop her.

I don’t really remember what happened next, except I think they got in their car and drove off, as I crawled over the guardrail and gingerly slid down the hill, thorns tugging at my jeans.

As quickly as our lives merged, they were separated.

All they know about me is my name is Jeanne. That’s it. No phone numbers exchanged, no emails, just our first names.

I drove down the road, hands shaking. Everything was surreal. As I walked through the market moments later, I noticed people around me. What had their morning been like? Who loves them? Who would miss them if they were gone?

Three women shared a few brief moments on the cusp of life and death. All before 9AM on a Saturday morning.

Part of me says it was fate that I was there. Had we not hosted Tracy, an Irish student teacher, I wouldn’t have been at the airport this morning or on that highway. Maybe my choice weeks ago to bring Tracy into our home started the path of fate to help Marion so she could be in her own home with her family tonight, alive and well.

But I don’t think it was just fate. It had far more to do with the willingness to take a risk.  A risk none of those other drivers would take.

I feel sorry for them. By staying safe on their path, they missed an opportunity of a lifetime. One I will never forget. They missed giving the gift of life.

There’s much to lose when you don’t take a risk – with your life, with your career, with your heart.

Get off the safe path. Take a risk. I dare you.



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13 thoughts on “Risk Your Fate

  1. I’ve always admired you, and that’s why I follow you on twitter, the PSA, your posts, and this site. Now I have one additional reason to admire you. You are an inspiration, a light in the dark, the good Samaritan in the dark pathways of “the world.”

  2. Jeanne, that is so inspiring and well written. I can truly relate to what you did. You acted from an internal empathy for your fellow human beings. You were brave and did what you knew was right. I’m sure you felt no risk at all. I think it’s strange the way these things happen, like you said, by the decisions and choices we make.

    • Thanks, Geoffrey. As McKee says, we define our fictional characters by the choices we have them make under pressure. Same holds true for the character of a real person. Put them in a stressful situation and see what they do. Their true self comes out.

  3. Someone once did a study by asking dying people what were their biggest regrets in life. Each person’s response was unique of course, except in one way. The responses were almost always related to something that the people DIDN’T do but wished they had.

    Interesting, huh? We don’t tend to regret our actions as much as our inactions.

    No regrets for YOU, Baby!

    • That IS interesting. I’d say it’s accurate for me as well because even with the things I did do that I regret, what I regret is not listening to my gut when all the red flags were flying telling me NOT to do it… yet I did it anyway. Listen to your gut. Often times, it’s smarter than your head.

  4. I got chills reading this, Jeanne. God bless you for your empathy and compassion. Some may call it heroism, and it is, but it’s also so much more. You proved that amid the chaos and stress of everyday living what still matters most is LIFE and what we do for others with our lives. You are an inspiration in so many ways, which is an act of heroism in itself 🙂

  5. Amazing! What a blessing for all of you! Most people would drive on by and not take the time to see how they could be of assistance. What an angel you are!

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