Pay it back
Back in 1998 or so, Jackie and I were driving separate cars through Ft. Worth, in the middle of summer. We came upon the inevitable delay as we neared downtown and inched through traffic, just wanting to get where we were going.
Finally the temperature got to my Jeep. Steam started rising from the hood and I could smell anti-freeze. I managed to limp the Jeep off I-35 and down the next ramp, where I pulled over under a tree. I got out and popped the hood to see what the problem was. It turned out to be a radiator hose that burst.
So here we were, in a broke down Jeep with a 18 month old baby, in the heat of the day in a rough neighborhood in a city that we didn't know. As we were talking about what to do next, a man a few years older than me walked up and said "You all need a hand?" I showed him what was wrong and he said, "well, there's a parts store 2 blocks down on the right so you can get a new hose. You got tools?" I told him I didn't have much, so he said, "That's my brother-in-law's tire shop," he said, pointing at the run-down building across the street, "I'll grab some tools if you'll go get the hose."
Jackie drove down to the parts store while I sat with Elijah under the tree. The man came back with tools and we talked while we waited on the hose. He told me his name, but the years have pushed it to the back of my brain. He could tell I was tense and he said "You don't need to worry. Ain't nobody going to rob you 'round here. We'll get you patched up and on your way." Jackie got back with the hose. We got it put on the Jeep with his tools and filled up with water from the tire store. I shook the man's hand, thanked him for the help and we headed on our way.
The man was so matter of fact, it dawned on me later that they probably got a lot of stranded motorists, just like us. Most of them, just like us, probably felt uncomfortable because it looks like a dangerous place.
That event left an impression on me. The man's generosity toward a couple of complete strangers, who were scared of being in his neighborhood, made me rethink the way I view others. I also vowed to repay his generosity whenever I could.
Today, Beau and I were driving down back from the next town over, when I saw an old pickup broke down on the side of Interstate 40. As we pulled alongside, I could tell the driver was an old man. Looking at his tags and his appearance, it was pretty obvious that he "ain't from around here". Looking further, I could see he had crutches and there's no way he could've walked to either town.
"You need a hand?"