“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan
It’s amazing how a decision, a decision that you wouldn’t normally make, would put you in the path of someone that needs help. Let’s just say that I’m glad that I resisted the urge to carry on as usual tonight.
After going out to dinner with wife and kids, we stopped at a gas station to fill up on the way home. Usually, I hate stopping for gas when I’m on my way home; I’d rather do it the next time I’m out. Also, being a creature of habit, I always get gas at the same place; usually the same pump, too. If this were a typical evening, I wouldn’t have wanted to get gas at my usual haunt because the direction we were traveling would have made it difficult to pull into the station and I would have decided to go in the morning. Instead, I pulled into a gas station that I don’t think I’ve ever stopped at in the five years we’ve lived here.
While standing at the pump, a young lady walked up and asked if I could buy her “a little gas” for her truck. She didn’t ask for money, didn’t offer a sad story. She gestured to a beat up old truck with balding tires when she asked. She was quite embarrassed to ask for help. I told her that I didn’t have cash to give her, but if she pulls up to the pump next to me, I’ll put the gas in her truck. She said that’s all she needed.
While I was putting gas in her truck, two little kids jumped out of the truck and she corralled them back in. It appeared they were living in the truck. Again, I sensed her embarrassment about her predicament, especially with kids in tow. She wasn’t even trying to use her kids to play the sympathy card. She was very protective of them. She asked me if there was a soup kitchen in town. I said that I don’t think Katy has a soup kitchen, there is a pantry, but I doubt they’re open at that hour. She asked about any soup kitchens in Houston, but I couldn’t think of any that were in locations that I felt were safe to send her and her little kids to. I asked her if she was from here; if she had any family. She said no, they’re from North Carolina.
After paying for her gas, we gave her some cash and apologized for not being able to do more to help. She thanked me tirelessly and said that they’ll be okay. She said she’ll look in the phone book to find a shelter if they need it. Hopefully, the cash can get them a little further down the road, or at least feed them for the night.
We have been in trouble before and we know what it’s like to have what we felt was nothing. I can’t imagine what she’s running from, to have everything you own, everything you cherish in the cab of a truck, and then you’re forced to rely on the charity of strangers. I think I’m a pretty good judge of people and I’ve spoiled a fair share of scammers in my time, all the typical signs weren’t there. She was the real deal.
Again, I’m amazed how a simple decision of where to get gas can be so much more important to someone else. Some may scoff, I expect it, but something greater guided my decisions this evening. I’m also glad that the kids were with us to see both sides of the coin; the disparity between our two families. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be the example; to teach my kids a valuable lesson in humility and compassion.