It can seem these days that compassion and empathy in our country have gone the way of the horse and buggy.

Racial tensions and arguments over how best to address the coronavirus pandemic could lead people to believe that our republic has devolved into black-vs.-white and mask-vs.-no-mask groups that are so entrenched in their positions that any dissenting opinions are rejected out of hand.

The ideological battle lines we’ve drawn leave little room for simple acts of kindness toward people in need, unless those people share our view of the world.

That’s why it’s heart-warming to see the empathy and generosity displayed last week by the owners of Bowling Green’s Midas automotive-repair store.

Tony and Debbie McElhinny recognized the plight of Breanna Freeman, a young single mother who was at wit’s end when her 2002 Volkswagen Beetle went kaput this past winter.

Working through Midas’ Project Spark program and the 1-800-Charity Cars nonprofit, the McElhinnys found a way to get Freeman back on the road in a dependable vehicle.

Recalling the day that Freeman brought her failing car to the Midas store on U.S. 31-W By-Pass, Debbie McElhinny said: “She was so upset. I knew we had to do something.”

That “something” was everything for Freeman. Midas found a car – a 2006 Saturn Ion – and arranged for it to be presented to Freeman after the technicians at Midas had replaced so many parts that it was nearly brand-new.

It was a godsend for Freeman, who needed reliable transportation to get from her home in the northern part of the county to her job at Dunkin’ Donuts on Nashville Road.

Freeman, who was presented with the keys to the car last week, said the Volkswagen’s breakdown was “one of the scariest times” of her life. She was shocked to learn that the Saturn was being given to her at no cost.

“I was trying to get my own place for me and my kids,” Freeman said. “The thought of having one less thing to worry about was like a breath of fresh air.”

That’s an apt description of what the McElhinnys did. Their charitable act for Freeman is an oxygenating gesture that reminds us all that compassion for our fellow men and women hasn’t died even as disease and discord chip away at society’s foundations.

What the local Midas franchise owners did helps restore our faith in humanity and maybe for a moment allows us to forget the depressing news of virus outbreaks and political unrest.

The McElhinnys didn’t have to help Freeman, and they didn’t have to donate 100 free oil changes to local health care workers during the pandemic.

But they did, and we’re better as a community for having such caring business owners among us.