Time to Act

By John Sugrue
New Jersey, USA

Time to Act

During the winter of 1998 I had been interviewed three times for a position that I really wanted. As I was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike on my way home from the fourth interview, I saw a man standing on the side of the road with his car. It was plainly evident that his car had a flat tire.

Because traffic was heavy I was driving by this man and his car very slowly. I could see in his face a total look of despair. His face showed much more pain than what one would expect from a person with a simple flat tire. I couldn’t pass him by with good conscience because I knew something much deeper was going on with him. Though I didn’t know what it was, I felt compelled to stop. I felt I had been given good fortune for the interview and that it was time to give back. I asked if he needed help and he indicated that he was in a jam.

I learned that he had a spare tire but no jack. I was relieved, as I could easily lend my jack to him and be on my way quickly. I was considering letting him keep it because I’d been thinking about buying a new hydraulic jack.

That idea was short-lived, as he had never changed a flat tire before. I had changed hundreds because I had worked in a gas station as a teenager — only now I was dressed in my best business suit.

Then I learned that this man was on his way to see a friend. His friend’s house had burned to the ground the night before and he was on his way to help. His friend was in dire need of his assistance, he was hours late and had no way to call. Now I saw the reason for the pain in his face. He was practically in tears.

At that point, I realized there was only one option. I took off my suit jacket, rolled up my sleeves and changed the tire for him. My action certainly got the attention of passing motorists. I was very glad to let all the people driving by see a white man in a suit changing a flat tire for a casually dressed black man. I hoped that they would learn a lesson about helping one another.

He offered to pay me. At first I refused. Then I told him that his debt would not be paid until he did a kind deed for a stranger in need. He promised he would. I’ve never seen him since but I’ve never doubted that he repaid this debt.

Since that time, I have had my own times of need. Each time I’ve run into a Good Samaritan who selflessly helps me out. I, in turn, repay the debt the same way I asked that man on the turnpike to pay me.

Originally published as HeroicStories #295 on April 11, 2002

1 thought on “Time to Act”

  1. Thank you for sharing that, even though it was your own act and not another’s, because people often (myself included) are reluctant to be seen as commending themselves. You have spoken for all of us who have done likewise but have not told anyone, and I’m sure there are many of us. Your heavenly Father who sees in secret will reward you.


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