One good turn deserves another: kindness

Playl's Ponderings


 You may not recognize the name, but Ben Talley’s column appears in the Sunday edition of the Bristol Herald Courier every week. Ben was an elementary school teacher on the Virginia side of our town for years. He is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame and a former Virginia Teacher of the Year.  A couple weeks ago, he wrote about an incident that reminded me of something that happened to me around 25 years ago.

 “Mr. T” was hiking on Grandfather Mountain, in North Carolina, and came down from the mountain in the wrong place - well, maybe it was the right place after all, but it wasn’t where he meant to be. Turns out he was a couple miles from his car and in a very nice neighborhood instead of a parking lot. A resident - very kind lady, a stranger - gave him a lift to his vehicle.

My experience from nearly a quarter century ago was similar in many ways.

We had gone for a hike at Steele Creek Park here in Bristol - “we” being my 10-or-11-year-old son and I. Steele Creek Park is a municipal park encompassing more than 2,200 acres - golf course, picnic shelters, playgrounds, nature center, train ride, a 52-acre lake with paddle boating and fishing, and more. Most of the park covers a wooded area in “the knobs,” with close to 24 miles of hiking trails.

Sammie had dropped us off, and we had agreed on a time to meet back there, a little before dark. Our walk in the park would take us across the dam, through some pretty rugged terrain, past the “developed” area of the park, then back to our starting point by way of the easy path beside the lake.

Guess what! When we were back in the knobs, we took the wrong turn and ended up on a trail that led us deeper and deeper into the woods. By the time I realized our mistake, we had gone too far to turn back. Thinking we would circle around and go a different way was my second mistake. I didn’t want to scare Stephen, so I told him we had a change of plans...and quietly worried that Sammie would freak out about her two lost boys. Back then we didn’t have a cell phone.

Then I heard something. Not a bear or sasquatch or a rattlesnake; I heard voices from a loudspeaker at Bill Gatton Honda. Now I knew - approximately - where we were, and we were further from where we needed to be than I had realized. Poor Sammie. How long before she would call out a search party? I was in trouble!

Then it hit me.  If we were that close to the car dealer, we must be right above Sunnybrook Subdivision where a few of our church families lived. I started praying – hard - and we left the trail we were on and scrambled downhill on an obscure deer path.

Soon we saw houses and a street that dead ended at the park boundary and a car parked on the street. Now I knew where we were, and we were within a couple blocks of Helen Talley’s house, on Blue Bonnet Drive. We could make a phone call or two from there and try to locate the wife and mother that was probably frantic by now. God was blessing us, indeed.

As we hurried past the car, I noticed someone was in the car, taking a nap, and I recognized...Ben Talley. More blessings from the Father. Ben had been mowing lawns - his mother’s and neighbors’ - and was taking a well-deserved rest. We rapped on his window and quickly explained our predicament. He awoke with a smile and insisted on driving us to the parking lot where we were supposed to meet Sammie nearly an hour earlier. She was worried to death but waiting patiently.

Ben Talley takes God’s command in the Bible to “be kind to one another” very seriously - always has, learned it from his parents - and so I was glad to read about the stranger that was kind to him. Payback for years of practicing the Golden Rule!

--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, former pastor and hospital chaplain, may be emailed -


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