The Saved Birthday Trip

by Chris Avera
Florida, USA

The Saved Birthday

It was 1978. I was eight, and it was my birthday. I was told to make a list of four or five friends who’d enjoy the water theme park in nearby Tampa, Florida. Since we didn’t have any spare money, the trip would be a packed lunch and no extras. I didn’t care — I was getting a special treat!

The great day arrived, and my mother, younger brother, six friends, and I piled into our old beat-up station wagon. We headed out of town on the 90-minute ride to the amusement park for a day of sun and fun.

About halfway to the water park, the car started running badly and the “check engine” light came on. My mom pulled the car over. We were stuck. An hour passed as we waited for someone to stop and help.

A police officer stopped to see if we were all right and called a tow truck to pick up the car. On the way to the service station, Mom told the officer that we had been headed to the water park for my birthday treat. The officer dropped us off and left after giving me a short ride in the police car as a birthday present.

At the service station, the mechanic explained the water pump needed to be replaced. The cost, plus the tow, would be $135. Mom started crying and pulled me aside. She explained we wouldn’t have enough money to go anywhere but home, and we’d have to save up to go somewhere else for my birthday later. I was disappointed but tried not to show it, knowing even at that age that we didn’t have much money.

We tried to make the best of the day, the nine of us having a picnic at the service station with the cake Mom had baked. Eventually, the mechanic called Mom into the office, saying the repairs were completed but he had to make a phone call before we could leave. He said to have a seat and wait.

The next thing I knew, the police officer came in the door of the service station. He walked up to me with a wrapped present, handed it to me, and wished me a happy birthday. Then he paid the mechanic for the repairs and tow.

The officer told Mom that growing up, his family didn’t have much money, and he knew we didn’t either. He said my birthday trip shouldn’t be ruined because of something we had no control over.

With a simple act of kindness, this officer changed my life. I’m a single father raising two children of my own now and am not rich, but I remember that day and try to help others when I get a chance. A small act can change a person forever, and I try to instill this concept into my children’s lives.

Originally published as HeroicStories #676 on Oct 14, 2006

2 thoughts on “The Saved Birthday Trip”

  1. Great story but in editing it something was added that may cause pause in regard to its authenticity. In 1978 it was very unlikely that a old beat up station wagon would have a “check engine light” . I believe this is much newer technology that that. Regardless I loved the story.

  2. I loved this story. Brought a lump to my throat. Good angels abound on this earth in human form. They not only do good, but they leave behind a legacy which, like a pebble tossed in a pond, sets up ripples that go way beyond the event itself. Lucky boys to have a father like Chris Avera.


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