A Warm Hand on a Cold Night

by Jim Rutledge
Austin, Texas, USA

A Warm Hand on a Cold Night

I was young and on my own in the Navy in the fall of 1981, stationed in San Diego, California. I had a serious operation at Balboa Hospital there, where they had to put a steel rod in my chest about 12″ in length. It made breathing and moving around very difficult.

I was given two months to go home and recuperate from my surgery, so I headed to Illinois. Usually I made my visits home in the summer, so I did not think to dress for the fall weather that Illinois was having — all I was wearing was a windbreaker.

Arriving in Chicago just minutes after the last bus to my hometown of Peoria had left, I could either sleep in the cold, damp bus terminal or take a bus that would stop at a terminal just 30 miles from Peoria, in Bloomington. I decided to go on to Bloomington, thinking that it would be a short ride home in the morning.

As the bus got closer to Bloomington it starting snowing and the temperature began to drop. Had I known the terminal in Bloomington was closed, I might have been more concerned. When the bus dropped me off, I thought for sure that there had been a mistake. The whole town was dark. Everything was closed.

There I was, in pain at three in the morning, and it was snowing and well below freezing. My windbreaker didn’t help against the elements at all. I huddled in the doorway of the terminal not having any idea what to do. The metal rod in my chest and the cold air was making it almost impossible to breathe. I was quickly losing consciousness. Finally, I passed out.

Then I heard a voice and saw a hand pulling me up. He half-carried me, half-dragged me for what seemed like miles until we reached his house. He laid me down on the sofa, covered me up and sat there while I slept. When he woke me up that morning, he took me back to the bus terminal. I went to the restroom to freshen up and when I came back there was a cup of hot chocolate at the table and he was gone.

After I got home, I borrowed my mother’s car and drove back to Bloomington to find him and thank him for his act of kindness. But nothing seemed familiar. It was as if it was a dream. But I know it was real and he was real. I have never been able to find out his name but I will never forget him for as long as I live. I have shared this story with many people over the years and probably will continue to do so. It’s been 21 years now.

Originally published as HeroicStories #176 on Sep 19 2000

1 thought on “A Warm Hand on a Cold Night”

  1. “A warm Hand on a Cold Night” which was originally published in September of 2000 by Heroic stories but which I recently read via my e-mail in October this year 2021. Here again we have a story of the totally unexpected circumstances we can all find ourselves into, at one time or another like the
    author of the story , who missed the last Bus to his hometown of Peoria in Illinois, being late at night
    and having to take another Bus to Bloomington, Illinois which was some distance out of his way to his
    destination, only to find on his arrival there a dark and dreary place with everything closed including
    the Bus terminal. Finding himself not properly dressed for the cold Fall weather and nowhere to go
    he was actually stranded. He sat down in the cold bus terminal and passed out. the realization of his
    very serious condition comes to light when he feels a hand pulling him up and wakes up the next day
    to find himself back at the bus terminal. His experience was one of the Good Samaritan, an unknown
    stranger helping another out of conditional love and human compassion . He never did find
    this stranger who took such good care of him through that bitterly cold night even though he made inquiries at the station to locate him. His anonymous Good Samaritan, chose to remain that way because all he wanted to do was his part in making a difference in someone’s life that needed him at
    thatmoment .It shows how strangers unknown to each other can rise to the occasion.Jim Rutlege on theother hand will cherish that experience of that cold and bitter night of receiving that warm hand that helped him through that cold night.


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