After months of training, my family finally headed for Victoria this past weekend for the Goodlife Fitness 1/2 Marathon. However, we never would have made it there without the kindness shown by friendly strangers of Williams Lake.
Our family of three and our friend left our home early in the morning on October 9 excited for the trip ahead of us. As we neared McLeese Lake, however, our truck made a terrible noise and began billowing smoke from the rear-end. We were able to slowly make our way to the McLeese Lake General Store. My husband went inside to inquire if there was a garage or mechanic in town. There was not, but a man picking up his mail overheard my husband and asked what the problem was. My husband explained to Dave that he thought we needed oil for the rear-end of our truck. Dave said he lived close by and would run home and grab us some gear oil, which he did. In the meantime my husband called for a tow truck to get us into Williams Lake. Dave and my husband added the oil and we decided not to chance driving into Williams Lake, but waited for the tow. Once it arrived, we realized only one of us could go with the driver but there were four of us that needed to go. “No problem,” said Dave “I’ll drive the others to Williams Lake.” Upon arriving at the Canadian Tire, Dave refused to take money for gas and the oil he gave us. Such a neighbourly gesture for complete strangers!
As we waited for our vehicle to get into the garage we decided to grab a bite at The Burger Shed. We ate at the picnic tables while Walter, the owner, busily served the lunch crowd. He must have observed us sitting and waiting while he rushed in and out delivering delicious eats. When my husband went back inside to buy another drink Walter remarked, “I don’t know you. You have not been here before.” My husband explained our situation and returned to our table.
Soon our truck was being driven into the garage to find out what was wrong. My husband went into the service area and returned with bad news. The bearings in the rear-end had gone and there maybe be more damage as they were not yet finished inspecting the truck. Walter came over and asked, “When will you be back from your trip?” We explained our plans were to return on Monday, Oct. 13. “OK,” said Walter “You take my car, I don’t need it until Wednesday.”
We laughed and said: “No we can’t take your car, you don’t even know us.” Walter said that didn’t matter. “It’s normal,” he said in his endearing Swiss accent. “No, it’s not normal.” I replied. He said, “Well you can rent a car or take my car, it’s up to you.”
We asked the gentlemen in the service department about Walter’s offer. “He wants us to take his car to Victoria. Is he for real?”
I asked. Les, from Canadian Tire replied, “Yep, you should take it.”
The parts and labour for the truck were going to cost $1,900., but an auto-wrecker in One Hundred Mile House had a used rear-end for $700. The only catch was how were we going to get the part? “Take my van,” offered Walter. So my husband drove Walter’s van the round trip to pick up the part. By the time he returned, the Canadian Tire service department was closed. “Just leave the part in my van,” said Walter, “I will get it to them in the morning.”
We decided to take Walter up on his offer and use his car. He drove my husband to his home to pick it up. When he returned he handed us a bag full of water and pop and four chicken burger meals for supper. He had prepared them for us at no cost so we could be on our way. By 6:30 p.m. we were driving in Walter’s car to Vancouver where we were staying the night.
On Monday after finishing our race, we returned to Williams Lake. The garage had fixed our truck and after settling the bill we headed to Walter’s house. We handed Walter a gift, just a small token of our appreciation. Again he said, “No, this is normal.” We thanked him again and again for the extraordinary kindness that he showed to us, complete strangers!
You see kindness like this is not “normal” as Walter kept telling us. But it should be. In a world where trusting strangers is not the norm, Walter shines through as an example of how we should treat our neighbours. Whether they are strangers or not!
Walter is planning on closing his Burger Shed this week and head for a well deserved winter holiday. But fine citizens of Williams Lake and area, next spring when he makes his way back to your lovely town and you have a craving for one of the best burgers served up, head to the Burger Shed! You won’t be disappointed in the food or the friendly service!
The Hemmings and Monica Culham