An Earthquake & Fender-Bender…Nothing a Little Chocolate and Perspective Can’t Fix

Chocolate-Ganache-CupcakesWe all have our days, and so does the universe. As I snack on spoonfuls of homemade dark chocolate and coconut cream ganache (Yep, made it myself thanks to 2006, where I spent my days learning the ropes at Layers Cake Design Studio) I am reminded that there is nothing a little chocolate and perspective can’t fix.

Like all Los Angelenos,  I, too, awoke to a 4.4 earthquake that shook me outta bed and tumbling into the world yesterday morn. Up before dawn, without an alarm. A rarity, indeed. Thus began a series of events that could have clouded my day if I chose to let it except for the fact that as I was slowly waking up perusing the online news with hot espresso roast in hand, I read this:

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

Frederick Buechner

Out the door and ready to meet my kiddo for an in-classroom behavior support and social skills session, I got no further than 7 minutes down Fulton Avenue before I heard a scccreeecchhh, then a JOLT as I lunged forward unexpectedly. I got of my little car out to survey the damage. Only a bit of bumper in need of repair. Whew! I turned to the Honda behind me and asked if she was okay. She was. Then I saw a Chevy behind her with a young driver visibly upset. Without hesitation, I walked towards her. “I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault,” she sobbed. Putting aside the inadmissible excited utterance, I reassuringly replied, “We’ve all been there. It’s ok.” I wrapped my arms around her, like I do when my students are overcome with so much frustration that they can no longer hold in their emotion, and as traffic zipped past us rushing to their individual daily grinds I remembered that:

“There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.”

Han Suyin

She was a 23 year old student teacher finishing up her credentialing at a nearby elementary school. I calmly walked her through the process of exchanging insurance info, calling the police (by the way, LAPD does not show up to fender-benders, so says the 911 lady. Whoops. Lesson learned.), and attempting to direct her car out of traffic. We sat on the sidewalk as life resumed around us. I learned that she really wanted to be an actor and did not like driving. She lived with her mom but wanted to move to New York and took this as a sign that she was ready to make the Big Apple her new home.  I waited until her step-dad arrived and then gave her a hug goodbye.

I’d like to think that compassion is a natural state of being for all of us humans, but that would be my idealistic self touting theory. Rather, my experience has always been that compassion is a choice predicated on perspective. We choose to embrace compassion, empathy, and in the process we earn the joy of connecting to another in need.

I was classified as no-fault, but I would’ve been if I had chosen to react in anger rather than empathy. It’s all about perspective, right. In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re deemed at-fault though, nothing can replace the compassion you choose to express or mask in that jolted moment.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to


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