I always try to keep my gas tank full.
It’s the Boy Scout in me, I guess: “Be Prepared.”
I was out running errands ahead of the hustle and bustle of the Thanksgiving holiday, and pulled into a Wawa in Ormond Beach to top off my tank. As I finished and turned to get in my truck, I heard a voice behind me say, “Excuse me, sir.”
Unfortunately, it is common in the Halifax area to be approached by homeless people or ambulatory street drunks asking for a handout, or a confrontation. Being a curmudgeon who long ago lost all faith in humanity, when I heard him, I let out a long audible expletive and began going through the catalog of well-worn answers in my head:
“No, I don’t have an extra cigarette.”
“No, I don’t have any spare change.”
“No, I don’t believe you need help getting home for the holidays.”
As I turned, the haggard vagrant I had pictured in my mind’s eye was replaced by a smiling, well-dressed gentleman who stuck out his hand and introduced himself, gave the name of the church he attends, and explained that he was out in the community “blessing people.”
Then he handed me a $10 gas card.
It set me back a moment.
I was mentally prepared for everything except kindness.
Thoughts began racing through my mind:
Was it the fact I only pumped a few dollars’ worth of gas?
Did my scruffy beard, faded T-shirt and jeans make me look like a charity case?
Why would someone I had never met offer me a “blessing”?
I explained to my benefactor that, although I may look like a bum, I was the most blessed person he could have selected. I asked that he give the card to someone less fortunate who could really use it.
As I turned to go, he asked if he could pray with me for anything I may need in my life, and I declined. (You see, I long ago expended all my IOUs with the man upstairs; now, me and Jesus have our own thing going, and I try not to bother him on weekends.)
While I may be the proverbial sheep that got lost, this simple act of unexpected generosity made my beat-up old heart feel full knowing that there are people during this time of Thanksgiving offering random blessings to those who need it most.
That includes thawing my cynical heart and helping me remember the true reason for this glorious season.
My wish this holiday season is that you and yours receive a similar blessing of the heart.
Thanks, pal. Whoever you are.
— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at barkersview.org. A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.