My friend got into a serious car accident the other day. Thank God both she and her husband are “fine.” Not perfectly fine – with sprains and aches and pains, but not seriously injured either, so she’s choosing to call it fine. It was a frightening accident with the air bags deploying and my friend’s car being totaled.

The accident took place early in the morning during the winter break when traffic was very light. Because of that sometimes people don’t pay so much attention. The young girl who ran a red light and ploughed right into my friend’s car fit perfectly into that category. She wasn’t drinking (it was a little early in the day for that!) or texting (she didn’t even have her phone with her). She just wasn’t focusing and she wasn’t expecting to see other traffic. Thank God, her lack of concentration didn’t have more serious consequences.

She walked out of her car without a scratch on her but certainly upset about the situation. My friend, while shaken up, took pity on this young woman. Being a mother and grandmother, she could certainly empathize with the thoughts and concerns of this driver. She saw her fear and her pain and, instead of focusing on herself, made an effort to offer comfort to the young lady across from her.

After reassuring her that they would be fine (and getting her insurance information) my friend had the presence of mind and the graciousness to give this girl and big hug and send her on her way with good wishes for the day. I was so impressed when I heard this story. It was such an act of selflessness. And of self-control.

The more typical reaction in such a scenario would be to leap out of the car and scream, “Didn’t you see me?! Why weren’t you watching where you were going?!” Useless questions but all too common. Between the fear, the anger and possibly the pain, people usually don’t display their better selves in such situations.

And yet my friend did. She didn’t focus on her own discomfort or pain. She didn’t think about the now destroyed car and how that would impact her career and her daily activities. She didn’t worry about bills and doctor’s visits and all the ensuing hassles. She only thought about a frightened young girl and how she could comfort her.

I went to visit my friend the other day. She is pretty much housebound (except for doctor’s visits) as she struggles to recover from the effects of the accident. She walks gingerly and is in constant pain. But she has no regrets about how she behaved and continues to feel only compassion for the young woman who hit her.

Since she is unable to work at the moment, she spends her time thinking about how lucky she is to be alive, focusing on all the good she has in her life and trying to figure out how she can grow from the experience. I think she already has! But what she may not realize is that she’s not the only one. Through her example, all of us, her friends, have grown as well. We are more appreciative, we have more gratitude and we’ve learned what it means to think about others, even in a very stressful situation.

I’m really sorry she had to experience the accident and its aftereffects – but I’m not sorry that I got the opportunity to learn and grow from her response.