Just recovering from a miserable cold, the day had not started well— 51 degrees inside, heating oil tank empty. Hours later, thanks to the tech providing 10 gallons of fuel, I left home at near sunset to shop for groceries. Ninety minutes later, while placing my bags in the cargo trunk, a man’s voice called out, “Did you know your tire is flat?”
I engage with a lean, dark haired young man pointing to my rear tire. It seemed unbelievable that the day would end like this—a flat tire, out in the cold.
“Do you have someone you can call to fix it?” he asks.
“Yes. I can call Triple A.”
The man’s wife, from the shadows, comments, “You’ll have to wait at least 45 minutes or longer.”
“I can fix it, if you would like,” the man continues.
“He likes to help,” she explains.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Mary and John,” she answers.
“What’s your name?” John asks.
“Faye’s a beautiful name,” he says.
I step up closer, wanting to believe, but needing to check this stranger’s offering. “”Where’s your tire?” he says with a smile. His sincerity is undeniable.
“You’re sure? You really want to do this,” I ask as I push the bags of groceries toward the back. John lifts a panel to lift the tire.
“Oh, good,” I say, “It’s full sized and not a doughnut. Have you fixed many flats?”
“It’s been awhile. I think I can do it. Where’s the jack? Do you have a tool kit?”
I need to think fast, much too fast given how long it’s been since I’ve rummaged in the hidden cargo pockets. I hit gold and retrieve a bulky cloth packet.
John is quick, finds the jack, unties the packet’s ribbon and grabs the lug wrench. After raising the car, he fastens onto a bolt. It does not budge.
“You’re in good hands, not to worry,” Mary says. “I have a quick return, and will be right back.”
“It’s cold,” John says. “Maybe you should go into the store. I can come get you. Or if you’d like, you can sit in my car.”
I’m in the moment, dressed for winter, needing to stay engaged and present. John doubles down. The wrench gives way. Within seconds, he twists all the lug nuts except the last. “Where’s your lug key? Mine’s in my front compartment.”
“Key? I am clueless.
“It’s round. One lug is locked, for prevention. Otherwise, anyone can lift your tires with a common wrench.”
I search my glove compartment. No luck.
Undaunted, John returns to the packet and locates the lock key.Within minutes, he replaces the tire, stows the tool kit and damaged tire.
Mary, just back, says, “I knew he could help. He loves to pay it forward.”
“Yes,” John continues, ”I love to help. But most people say no. I’m so grateful you let me step up.”
His words touch me deeply. “In my faith, we call it a Mitzvah,” I say.
“What does Mitzvah mean?” John asks.
“A way of giving, of helping another in need.”
Mary says, “We are joining our friends soon. We’ll tell them John did a Mitzvah.” I assume their friends are Jewish; I’m grateful to deepen their connection. We hug.
John grins, comes towards me, arms open for an embrace. “I love you, Faye. Thank you for letting me help.”
I step into the arms of this generous man and without hesitation say, “ I love you, John.”
To say that John and Mary came into my life at just the right time is an understatement. Mary commented that because she had to return only an item, she had wanted to park close to the door, but John decided, in the moment, to pull in right beside me. Was the fact that I was an elder, on my own, tending to groceries, a fact that drew him to me? Mary had informed me his Mom had died when he was a teen. Their kids in college, I imagined they were close to my kid’s age. Whatever instinct drew him to me on that cold night, I was grateful.