I was having a pretty bad night.
On a recent bitterly cold and very rainy Saturday night, I was driving my car when on the dashboard a red battery symbol came on. I kept going only a few minutes more down the road when many symbols starting flashing across the dash and the power steering failed.
Cranking the wheel with all of the strength in my small arms, I was lucky to head towards a parking lot where the car came to an abrupt stop and all of the power shut down.
I called for roadside assistance and waited for over an hour while the rain continued to fall, covering my car in tiny icy droplets. At one point I wrote HELP on my fogged up window.
I got a call on my cell phone from a name I didn't recognize. Shahzad. He had arrived to tow me away.
He invited me to sit inside the cab of his large flatbed truck. I noticed a bag of food, blankets and a couple of drinks in reusable cups on the bench-style seat. "Welcome to my kitchen, bedroom and work," he said.
We chatted the entire 20 minute drive to my mechanic's garage.
Shahzad moved here from Afghanistan, four years ago, with his wife and three small children.
I had never met someone who had moved to Canada from a war-ravaged country. I asked him what it was like.
"I am from a small town where I owned a dried fruit stand," said Shahzad. "I was always running away from guns and bombs were dropping from the sky. It was very bad."
When asked how he liked being in Canada he said, "Ma'am, life is very hard and stressful here. People are stressed."
I couldn't understand how life here could be worse than a place where on any given day you're running for your life.
"In Afghanistan, on one salary you can provide for your whole family," said Shahzad. "Here, I work 15 hours a day, sometimes more. I pay $1600 per month to rent a 2-bedroom apartment + utilities + my car + food for my family. It's too much stress."
The irony of finding life easier when war is around you really struck me. But even with the stress, longer work hours and lack of disposable money Shahzad is happy here with his family.
"My children will never know war or the fear that I had."
As we approached the garage where we would say goodbye, Shahzad and I shook hands and wished each other well.
I couldn't say thank you enough to him for getting me to my destination and for such a great conversation. Giving me a glimpse into a life that I too would never know.