by Larry Whittington
One weekend about 1993, my brother Phil and I drove down a Georgia highway in an old truck. The truck wore its many years of service as a badge of honor. We were going camping and fishing, and were dressed in rough clothes and even rougher boots. Our crumpled hats completed the camouflage. No one would suspect we were actually two hard-working professionals who finally put together a couple days off.
We enjoyed the easy conversation of brotherhood as our old friend carried us down the road to a peaceful and relaxing weekend. When the tarp covering the truck bed began to flap, Phil pulled off the road under a bridge overpass and switched the truck off. I hadn’t warned him about the battery, so I said nothing. Maybe it wouldn’t be a problem.
We adjusted and retied the tarp. Back in the truck, Phil twisted the ignition key. A faint clicking came from under the hood, and then nothing. We opened the hood and checked all the connections. They were fine. The problem was somewhere in the ancient electrical system. All the battery juice had drained out, and only the generator had kept us going. We were stuck — big time.
The afternoon shadows of a beautiful autumn day lengthened as we considered our options. There weren’t many. The highway was absolutely flat, so pushing the truck to jump it off wouldn’t work. Any gas station was at least 20 miles away. Walking would take the whole weekend. But before we could decide how to decide which of us would hitch-hike, an angel appeared.
A compact car, almost as old as our truck, slowed and pulled under our bridge. The young black woman driving asked if we needed any help. We said we would be very grateful for a jump start. She pulled in front of the truck and popped her car hood. I dug behind the truck seat and found the jumper cables. We connected the cables and started the truck easily.
We thanked her profusely and both offered money for her kindness. She refused the money, and told us of times past when others had helped her. They had done it with no thought of themselves, but because they wanted to help. She had promised she would pass it on, and was simply returning the help. She smiled and left.
That weekend, I thought about the young woman — about how much courage it took for her to stop in the middle of nowhere and offer help to two rough-looking white men. I wondered how many times she had helped before, and would help again. I prayed that she would stay safe. I prayed to have some of her courage.
That weekend was years ago, and Phil is now gone. But I remember our fishing trip, the young woman, and the lesson she taught me. And I look for chances to help. I have a large favor to return.