I pull into the parking lot of the local CVS. A glance at the LCD on the dashboard tells me it is 90 degrees. I ease into the front row closest to the store and notice there is a lot going on today. As I collect my purse before leaving the car, I notice an elderly woman instructing a man on how to get the spare tire out of the truck of her car. A quick glance to the right shows the problem. The right front tire is flat.
“That must be her son,” I think to myself. My next thought is, “Mother should be inside in the store while he fixes it.” I start walking towards them to give my advice and escort her inside. As I get closer to them, I decide to mind my business. “They got it covered.”
After picking up a few things in the store, I make my way back out into the hot sun. I am in time to see the portly, 50 something year old man begin to tighten the lug nuts on the tire. He is bright, cherry red and huge drops of sweat are falling from his chin. He lets down the jack; he picks it up and puts it in her trunk. Once it is stowed, he pivots on the spot and jogs away from the car. In that moment I realized, he doesn’t know this woman at all.
She’s in a light blue chambray suit and bright orange flowered top, with a walking stick hooked in the bend of her arm, and she gives chase. She’s good at closing the distance between the two of them. In one hand there’s an open wallet; the other is waving folded bills.
He reaches the car next to mine and without effort I hear their conversation. She corners him as he tries to open the car door. He turns to face her like a child finally ready to admit they are “it”.
“Take it please,” she urges. “It meant so much to me. It is not much, but I want to say thank you.”
With a broad smile, he instructs her, “Put your money away! Your money is no good here! I have a mother too.”
“But please! I just want to say thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if you did not come along.”
“It was nothing. I am just happy I was able to help. You have a good day.”
She thanks him over and over before turning to go back to her car. He bows slightly with each utterance of praise as a show of respect. He means his words. He will not accept payment for doing the right thing.
“Oh my goodness,” my mind says. “He could have just turned the other way. He did not HAVE to help! He saw her in a bad way and did not look away! Can you see him in a good way and look away? He has to know it meant something!”
Before I can tell myself to mind my own business again, I am out of the car and making my way towards him. There are three women in line before me. “A line of people have formed to thank him for his kindness,” I say to myself. Instantly, my top lip is quivering. He had not done his good deed for money or for people to pat him on the back, but there we were lining up to do it none the less.
One woman says, “If we are lucky, we will all live to be that age and if we need help, hopefully someone like you will be around. Good job! You did a good thing!”
“I have a mother that age,” begins the next woman. “I hope someone would be so kind to her. Thank you,” she says and reaches out to squeeze his hand.
When it is my turn, I reach out to shake his hand. His hands is so large, it swallows mine completely. I clasp my other hand over our hands and shake my head side to side. He smiles warmly at me and nods in silence.
I want to speak life to him, to praise his actions, but I have come completely undone. I am a mess of tears and my voice will not leave my throat. I finally say the only thing that comes to mind, “May God bless you in everything you do.”
Even as I was seeing it, I knew what I was witnessing. It was a random act of kindness. It was a human being rising up to be his best self. He may not remember what he did in a week or two, but as for me… I never forget a manifestation of God.