I stood on the side of the interstate, holding my two year old and clutching my four year old's hands. My dress stuck to me, and the boys' cheeks were flushed. Inside the car, my husband dripped with sweat as he tried to start the engine. Before it stopped, the dashboard told us that the outside temperature was 106 degrees.
Cars and trucks flashed by, creating a hot breeze. I worked my phone with one hand, while my husband did the same. Big Guy bounced up and down, "Is a tow truck coming? Is a tow truck coming?"
I didn't know.
A possible re-start, dead again. We were an hour and a half from home and three hours from our destination. People at either end were preparing to drop everything to come get us . . .
Sweat rolled into my eyes and my sandaled feet burned in the sun. The grass made me itch, and I tried not to think about what might be lurking in it. Instead, I thought about how being an adult can sometimes stink, and how in the world are we going to get out of this mess?
Suddenly, a Wal-Mart truck pulled over. Yes, a Wal-Mart truck. A man got out of the huge eighteen wheeler and walked toward us.
"Whatever he says, don't get in the cab with him," my husband warned.
He approached with a smile, "I saw a lady and two kids out here and couldn't drive by. What seems to be the problem?"
I notice his badge: Jon. Jon helped us figure out why the unfamiliar, borrowed vehicle had stopped. He coached my husband through a multi step process, and after many attempts, it worked! We jumped back into our seats and I rushed to secure the boys before it died again. An exit with a gas station was in sight.
The engine sputtered, sputtered, purred, sputtered, and died again. Jon was already back in his truck, pulling away. We sighed. Then he stopped, backed up, and came to our rescue, again.
We thanked Jon profusely and told him he would be in our prayers. He said it was no problem. We drove to the gas station, and after multiple phone consultations, we decided that it was safe to continue towards our destination. We got cool drinks and gathered ourselves.
As my husband was getting back in the car, a middle aged man approached. He looked distraught, weepy. He said, "I've never done this before, but I'm so upset. I'm from Charleston, and I was just out mowing my yard when my mom called to say my dad died in Spartanburg. I dropped everything. I jumped in my car to drive up there, and I can't believe it . . . I just pulled in here and realized I forgot my wallet. Is there any way you could help me?"
How could we say no? We had just been helped by a generous stranger. There was no hesitation, "Of course," we said.
"What do you need?" my husband asked. "Gas?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Drive you car to a pump and I'll come swipe my card." The man walked away. He got in his car and drove toward the pumps. Then he drove away.
We stared after him, not understanding and then - of course - understanding. He didn't need gas; he wanted our cash. There was dead father and there was no forgotten wallet.
In one hot hour, we experienced both ends of the charity spectrum. We received angelic help from Jon, then we were almost scammed by a nameless stranger. I thought about that for the rest of our drive and how you just never know . . . I wondered about the stranger and his story. I wondered about Jon. I wondered about the timing of everything and how, because of the crazy heat, we just had two unexpected encounters. I thought about how God works, and His hand in everything. He made so many different types of people in this world. I thought about how He loves us all.
I came to this conclusion: Both men deserve prayers.
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