If you want to attract 7 out of 10 men in the area, raise the hood of your vehicle.
It is reaffirming and fun when strangers stop to help.
One among the assortment of assistants was Willie. Willie was hanging around out front when I went into the convenience store yesterday morning. He is the thinnest person I’ve ever seen, like maybe he hasn’t eaten anything for days, if ever. He looks like he’ll never see 60 again. The baggy, ratty clothes and the frayed gimmie cap cocked to one side do not inspire confidence. When he speaks, his words fall apart after the first syllable. I nodded and said hello. He said something and grinned.
He was still there when I came out. I avoided eye contact. You get the feeling that Willie is going to ask for something. (You don’t know that. Be fair. Practice what you preach.) I hopped in, turned the key…nothing. Well, hell. Popped the hood, hoping it would be something obvious—I have no business under the hood of a car; I only look to keep from having my Guy License revoked. I don’t know a distributor from a dipstick.
The helpers appeared and the opinions flowed. Consensus: It’s the starter, yep, need a new starter. Willie thought it had something to do with the radiator.
I did what any sane person would do: I called Brett. Of course he was busy. He’s always busy, but never too busy for a friend. Brett was out of town; he’d be there as soon as possible.
After I’d closed the hood and thrice thanked the assistants, Willie was still there. He took a position in front of my car, blocking the walkway. Other patrons glared at him and I tried to look like “He’s not with me.” (He’s going to ask for something—a dollar, a cigarette, something.) Willie greeted everyone who drove up. After a dozen or so ignored him, one of them said to him, “Come on. Let’s get you something to eat.” Willie’s eyes lit up and he limped in behind his benefactor.
Willie came out with a plastic bag and a fountain drink. He used a newspaper rack for a table. He gestured toward me with the sack and said something I couldn’t decode.
“Beg your pardon?”
Willie said, “You want some?” I understood him that time.
Brett showed up. No big deal, just needed a new battery. Easily replaceable.
Meanwhile, by a mile, I’d miscalculated Willie. He did indeed ask me something: He asked if I wanted to share his breakfast.
It was good to visit and get caught up with Brett. It was good and necessary to revisit and get caught up with my shortsighted judgments. Brett is never too busy for a friend. I was too blind to see one.
What’s your take on angels? I’d never given them much thought. Never doubted it—we’ve all seen things we can’t explain without a touch of booga-booga—but it’s never been on the front burner.
Until recently: Nine days ago, I posted a story about a friendly old guy who taught me a much-needed concrete lesson about judging people. I kept avoiding him because I just knew he was going to ask me for something. Had him pegged for a bum. My car wouldn’t start, so I was stuck there at the convenience store. Spent at least 30 minutes wishing he would go away. But most of the time he stood right in front of my car until help arrived. I told a friend later that it was like he was guarding the vehicle, and I was cynically thinking he’d expect a tip for it. All he ever asked me was if I wanted to share his breakfast—that someone else had voluntarily bought for him. “You want some?”
If you ever saw this guy, you’d never forget him. He was old, raggedy, and bent over. He had such a limp that it seemed he would fall with every step. He was the thinnest man I’ve ever seen—made Don Knotts look like Chubby Checker. No, you’d not forget him.
Later that day, my friend, Gayla, commented, “You just never know ~ the old guy might have been an angel helping you get things in perspective…”
That got me thinking: 1) He never once asked me or anyone else for anything, including the guy who paid for his sack of sausage biscuits. “You want some?” 2) As soon as Brett brought the jumper cables, the car started, and I closed the hood, the guy was gone. He could not have moved that fast. He was there…and then he wasn’t. At the time, I was too focused on getting to the mechanic’s place to even notice. 3) When you go to the same convenience store every weekday morning, you get to know the regulars and the surroundings. I’d never seen this guy hanging around before. It’s been over a week and I haven’t seen him since. 4) When I was telling my friend, RaChelle, about it, she said, “Back up: You said it seemed like he was ‘guarding’ your car. Guarding…Guardian…” She looked at me, waiting for the connection to click.
Something Wayne Dyer said popped into my head: “You’ll see it when you believe it.”
(Update: Over nine months later, I still haven’t seen hide nor hair of Willie again.)