In January (Vol. 44) I wrote about how I don’t give money to beggars but I’m happy to provide water and peanut butter crackers.
When someone finally took me up on my offer, I settled for a transaction rather than forming a relationship.
I vowed I wouldn’t miss that opportunity again.
Last Wednesday I almost did.
Stopping to get gas on my way to work, I arrived at a 7-Eleven on Gaston Avenue.
I pulled in defensively, as I suspected the lady at the next pump would approach me for who knows what.
Sure enough, as soon as I got out she asked, “Excuse me, could you please help me out with some gas?”
(Thought #1: Why didn’t I pick a different pump?)
I was in a rental car, so I didn’t have any water to offer. Instead I gave her a couple dollars and only said, “Here you go.”
(Thought #2: That’s a waste of $2.)
As I filled my tank, she paid inside and came back to capitalize on my derisory donation.
As I walked inside I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I felt like a hypocrite and realized I was blowing another opportunity. Not only did I not ask her name, my overly generous gift did nothing to improve her situation.
(Thought #3: Wake up, you fool! She obviously needs help and you are doing exactly what you publicly said you wouldn’t do back in January.)
As I paid for my coffee, I resolved to love my neighbor if she was still out there.
Sure enough she remained in her driver’s seat. Waiting. Waiting for the next person to lend a hand, as mine had been about as helpful as a slap to the face.
(Thought #4: You need to practice what you preach, Mr. Flash Writer!)
I asked her her name. She said Linda.
I asked her her story. She said she dropped off her kids at school and barely made it to the station, and her goal was to get enough gas to get back to pick them up.
She finished saying, “I don’t have one of those stories. I’m not going to take the money to use it on something else. I just need gas.”
To prove her point, she started the car and the fuel indicator remained on E.
Some help I had been.
(Thought #5: Get over yourself and do something to help your neighbor!)
When I pulled out my credit card Linda whispered, “God bless.”
As the pump filled her car, I apologized and said, “I feel bad because we are called to help our neighbor, and I failed a few minutes ago.”
“Thank you,” she said. “God bless you.” She even offered me hand sanitizer.
After I replaced the gas cap, she started the car. She broke down in tears as she watched the needle move to F.
She got out of the car to give me a hug, and through her tears said, “God bless you. I’ve felt my blessings coming. God bless.”
As I choked up all I could muster in return was, “God bless you, Linda. Have a nice day.”
As she drove away, I finally had a thought about her and not about me. What if that simple act was what Linda needed to restore her faith?
Even if it wasn’t, the tuneup on my heart was well worth the investment.
And that tank of gas improved the outlook of both of our days.
P.S. Matthew 6:1-4 warns us not to seek publicity for our good deeds. I didn’t write this to draw accolades. I only relay this story to encourage you to seek out opportunities to help those less fortunate. You might find it helps you as much as it helps them.