It was a bitterly cold day and the old lady’s car was stranded beside the road. She stood looking at it not knowing what to do. Suddenly a car pulled up in front of her and a man got out. In spite of his smile, she was scared. He looked poor and hungry. Was he going to harm her?
“Ma’am, I am here to help you. Why don’t you wait in the car where it is warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.”
It was only a flat tire, but for an old woman that was bad enough. He crawled under the car in mud to place the jack. As he worked, she rolled down the window. “I’m from St. Louis,” she said. “I’m just passing through. I can’t thank you enough for stopping and coming to my aid.”
At last the tire was changed. He stood up and closed the trunk. His clothes were wet and muddy and he was exhausted. “How much do I owe you,” she asked. Any amount would be fine with her. All the time she had been imagining all the awful things that could have happened to her if he had not stopped.
He never thought about being paid. This was helping someone in need. Plenty of people had helped him in the past. “If you really want to pay me back,” he said, “the next time you see someone in need help them and think of me.” He waited as she started her car and drove off. It had been a long, cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed home.
A few miles down the road the woman spotted a small café and stopped to grab a bite to eat and take the chill off before making the last leg of her trip home. It was very dingy looking, but the waitress gave her a sweet smile and brought her a clean white towel to dry her hair. She noticed that the waitress was about eight months pregnant, but she never let her tiredness change her attitude. As she wondered how anyone who had been on their feet all day could smile and be so giving to a stranger, she remembered Bryan.
Finishing her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change, but when she returned the old lady was gone. There were tears in her eyes when she read the handwritten note: “You don’t owe me anything. I have been there, too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I am helping you. If you want to pay me back, help someone in need and think of me.” Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.
There were tables to clear and more customers to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. Finally, she was home and was retiring for the night, thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could she have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard.
She knew how worried her husband was as he lay sleeping next to her. She gave him a soft kiss on the forehead and whispered, “Everything is going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.” Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.