HCA Healthcare
June 28, 2019


SOURCE: Tennessean
AUTHOR: Lynn Heady

On a road trip from Nashville to Florida, many personal interactions demonstrated to me the generosity of the human spirit.

Lynn Heady is a retired educator and serves as Tennessee co-coordinator for Better Angels.

One of the perks of being retired is having the time to travel in a leisurely manner — taking a road trip rather than flying.

We decided to do this on our recent trip to Parkland, Florida to visit my 98-year-old mother and several other members of my family. We mapped out our trip so that we stopped every four and a half hours and relaxed and refreshed for the next day’s travel.

Conversations in transit

Aside from a broken windshield and lots of thunderstorms on the way there, the trip was delightful. The joy included meeting and talking with so many amazing people on the way. The server at the motel’s free breakfast spread, Tequila, asked about our family and shared hers with us. We had a lot in common despite our apparent differences. 

At happy hour at the next hotel, we talked with other travelers — from all different locations and walks of life. Again, we laughed, compared lives and parted wishing each other a safe and happy journey.  Visiting family was both fun and nurturing. Except for one close call when “airing” our political differences with a family member, each and every one of these exchanges was surprisingly civil.

Traveling man looking at map of New York in car, while on road trip. (Photo: Ingram Publishing, Getty Images/Ingram Publishing)

Civility Tennessee: Learn more about the campaign to promote, practice and encourage civil discourse

A scare and strangers’ reassurance

On our drive home, between Chattanooga and Nashville, we had to call an ambulance from the Love’s Truck Stop as a result of my husband suffering terrible abdominal pain.  We were immediately approached by two truck drivers from West Virginia who talked with us, comforted us and waited for the ambulance — my surprise new support system. 

The ambulance drivers were kind and caring and even made sure that I, who at that point was travelling on a dry gas tank, could follow them directly and safely to the hospital. 

The staff at Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga was compassionate and confident and did what needed to be done quickly and efficiently, removing his pain with medication. The verdict: kidney stones. 

They were calm and assured me I could manage the drive home without fear of something happening. Now, I needed gas to get home. In the meantime, several friends even called or texted to offer to drive to Chattanooga from Nashville to get us from the hospital.  

The hospital staff directed me to the closest gas station, which was old, did not take credit cards and looked a bit frightening. I pulled in as my husband lay in the back of the car “out of it” on pain meds. 

The owner, a Middle-Eastern gentleman, told me not to worry, came out, pumped my gas and even put in a bit more than the $20 I gave him. He wished us luck and told me to drive carefully. 

And drive I did.  My thanks go to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who did not stop me for maybe going a bit over the speed limit.  We made it home in record time.

We are better than the rhetoric

All this to say, despite the hateful and divisive rhetoric we hear on TV from our leaders, both local and national, and the toxic atmosphere we are reminded of daily, Americans are caring, warm and wonderful people. It does not matter where they come from, what their backgrounds are, what race they are or who they voted for.  

Lynn Heady (Photo: Submitted)

We are there for each other, and it’s reassuring to know that we have each other’s backs.  We truly care about each other and we deeply care about our country. We take joy and sharing our stories based on our common experiences. 

This trip was an eye-opener for us. We volunteer for an organization whose goal is to depolarize America. It struck me that while we can do this with great ease as Americans; our leaders cannot. 

We need to find, promote and elect leaders, no matter what “side” they represent, from among us--the many people who truly get what it means to protect our country.

Lynn Heady is a retired educator and serves as Tennessee co-coordinator for Better Angels.