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Joe Helps

 

He was driving home one evening, on a two-lane country road. Work in
this small Midwestern community, was almost as slow as his beat-up
Pontiac. But he never quit looking. Ever since the factory closed, he'd
been unemployed, and with winter raging on, the chill had finally hit home.
It was a lonely road. Not very many people had a reason to be on it
unless they were leaving. Most of his friends had already left. They
had families to feed and dreams to fulfill. But he stayed on. After all,
this was where he buried his mother and father. He was born here, he knew
the country. He could go down this road blind, and tell you what was on
either side, and with his headlights not working, that came in handy.
It was starting to get dark and light snow flurries were coming down.
He'd better get a move on. You know, he almost did not see the old
lady, stranded on the side of the road. But even in the dim light of day,
he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes
and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.
Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped
to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't
look safe, he looked poor and hungry. He could see that she was frightened,
standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that
chill that only fear can put in you. He said, "I am here to help you
ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where it's warm? By the way, my name
is Joe."

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady that was bad
enough.Joe crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack,
skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire.
But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt. As he was tightening up the lug
nuts, she rolled down her window and began to talk to him. She told him
that she was from St. Louis and was only passing through. She could not
thank him enough for coming to her aid. Joe just smiled as he closed her
trunk.

She asked him how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all
right with her. She had already imagined all the awful things that
could have happened had he not stopped. Joe never thought twice about the
money. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and
God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past. He had
lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other
way. He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time
she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance
they needed, and Joe added, "And think of me."

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold
and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing
into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to
grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg
of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old
gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The cash register was
like the telephone of an out of work actor-it did not ring much.
Her waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair.
She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day
could not erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months
pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude.
The old lady wondered how someone like her who had so little could be so
giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Joe. After the lady finished her meal, and the waitress went to get her change from a hundred-dollar bill, the lady stepped right out the door.

She was gone by the time the waitress came back. She wondered where the
lady could be, then she noticed something written on a napkin. There were
tears in her eyes, when she read what the lady wrote. It said,"You don't
owe me a thing. I have been there too. Someone once helped me out, the way
I am helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do.
Do not let the chain of love end with you."

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill and people to
serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when
she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was 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, and as he lay sleeping next to
her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered low, "Everything's going to be
all right. I llove you, Joe."


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