Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good Samaritans

It is heartwarming when people can help others, but the good Samaritan role takes on a brighter glow during the holidays. On Friday I watched one stranger do several acts of goodwill to another, and I'm still enjoying the happiness.

I rang bell for the Salvation Army from 2:00 - 4:00 Friday at a Walgreens. The temperature outside was in the teens and the wind was blowing fiercely, but business was brisk. (I was fortunate to be ringing between the doors of the store so was able to stay warm) Around 3:00 an old, rusty truck with a handicap license plate parked in the handicapped parking space, and its owner limped into the store. The driver had long gray hair, glasses, a long gray beard (I will call him ZZ since it was a ZZ Top beard), a dirty, worn insulated denim jacket, dark jeans, scuffed boots, a brace around his right knee and he brandished a cane.

In short order he made his purchase, returned to the truck, and after repeated attempts, failed to start the engine. ZZ lifted the hood and tinkered with whatever one tinkers under truck hoods but could not start the vehicle. In time he was approached by a customer offering help. This person, who shall be known as GS (good Samaritan), dressed in slacks, leather shoes, nice ski jacket, gloves, but no hat, spent the next 15 minutes helping with the tinkering. Eventually ZZ came into the store looking for starting fluid. He came out purchaseless and rejoined GS. After a few more fruitless minutes they drove off in GS's van eventually returning with HEET and some spray for the carburetor.

Things got exciting when the carburetor spray started on fire and flames were coming from under the hood. Running into the store I tried to find a clerk and fire extinguisher but to no avail. As I was poised to call 911 the two men put out the fire with their gloves and some metal disk thingy from under the hood. For the next 30 minutes they continued to work on the truck, a fire started once again, was put out, but the engine never kicked in.

My bell ringing shift ended, and on the way to my car I stopped to ask if either wanted coffee but no one did. ZZ was on a blanket looking underneath the truck and GS stood by. The Samaratin informed me that ZZ is from Iron River, just got out of an Appleton hospital, and did have friends with whom he could stay until the truck was fixed. GS was going to give him a ride to that friend's house.

Seeing a stranger so dedicated to helping this obviously disabled man with this old old truck is what allows me to continue to believe in the goodness of people. GS seemed genuinely surprised when I thanked him for his kindheartedness, but I had seen many people walk by the truck and ZZ without a word. And I had watched as this hatless man stayed with ZZ for an hour in the freezing cold. It is easy to ring a bell for two hours, and it is easy to drop money into the red bucket. True charity is stopping to help on a cold cold winter day and giving time, patience, and assistance for a needy person.

I experienced the giving vicariously but it touched me. GS gave a gift to ZZ, to me, and to himself. I hope ZZ has many good Samaritans in his life, and that a stranger's kindness made his Christmas merrier. GS impacted my holiday, and I wish him as much joy as he gave me.


Cheryle said...

What an incredibly beautiful story! The best gift is often our time and ourself. GS obviously has a handle on the meaning of the season at it's most basic level.

Thanks for sharing this gift, Holly!

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