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Under a barrage of road rage, a woman found help from a stranger when her car stalled

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Time now for My Unsung Hero, our series from the team at Hidden Brain. My Unsung Hero tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. And a note before we tell today's story that there is mention of suicide. This story comes from Mary Griffis. In 2022, Griffis' brother Peter (ph) died by suicide. In the months that followed, Griffis spent much of her time sorting out the logistics of his estate. It was an emotional time. So after it was all squared away, she decided to do something to cheer herself up - learn how to drive a manual transmission car and then buy one. On the day she picked up her new car, she hit heavy traffic on a narrow two-lane road. Her car stalled out, and there was no breakdown lane.

MARY GRIFFIS: So I took a deep breath, and I tried again - nothing. Took a deep breath a few times and then tried again, and it jerked a little bit and stopped again. And at this point, because of the traffic, people were so angry. They were swearing. They were honking. People even rolled down their windows and gave me the finger.

So I didn't quite know what to do. And I think that was really obvious because this woman, she could see my hands shaking. And she said - she rolled down her window as she was driving by. She slowed down, and she said, do you need help? She didn't even wait for me to say yes or no. She said, hold on. I'm pulling over. And she got out of the car. And she started directing traffic and saying, hold on, hold on, go around. And I was laughing at that point. And she looked at me, and she said, my goodness, you would think people could remember to be kind in an emergency. And she said, I'm Robin (ph), what's your name? And I told her my name, Mary. And she just started chatting and - while directing traffic, while fending off all of the road ragers.

And instead of this turning into one of the most painful and discouraging experiences of my life, having newly finished the process of selling my brother's house and looking for something to give me hope and to feel happy about again, she came along and she turned it into something good. It reminded me that it wasn't fair that we lost my brother, that he did have a lot to hope for, that what we really need is to be kind and to be good to one another, to support each other and to keep going, not to give up.

SHAPIRO: Mary Griffis of Middletown, Conn. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - just those three digits, 988. You can find more stories like this on the My Unsung Hero podcast. And to share the story of your unsung hero, visit myunsunghero.org for instructions on how to send a voice memo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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