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An Act of Quiet Kindness

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 9.51.03 PMThis week’s guest columnist is Myra, my cousin. Some would say she’s my second cousin’s wife. She’s my cousin and good friend. Her story is best told in her words. Myra posted a brief version of this story on Facebook. It’s been shared 1,597 times.

I stopped at Larry’s OK Tire Store, in Johnson City, TN, to buy tires. Larry’s, a locally owned community fixture, also does repairs and it was busy. While I waited, I talked with other customers, including a couple in their late 50s.

A young man and his two young children unobtrusively enter the store. The boy wore Avengers pajamas and tennis shoes. The father wore faded jeans so long they cover his well-worn tennis shoes. Stooped and appearing fatigued, he shuffled to a chair in the corner. His son sat on his lap; his daughter at his feet. Both were quiet and still.

The wife of the couple asked the children, “Are you getting ready to go back to school?”

No one immediately responded. Finally the father said, “Well, we’re from out of town.

My son is here getting cancer treatment.” Niswonger Children’s Hospital is less than a mile from Larry’s.

“How old is he?”

“Five.”

“Where y’all from?”

“Kentucky. We’re staying here for his treatment. We’ve been down to St. Jude’s in Memphis before this.”

Silence. The boy fidgeted. I noticed dark circles under his eyes and thought of my two healthy children.  Jesse, the employee behind the counter, never looked up. Larry and several men worked in the garage shop area.

The husband asked, “Have you heard of MD Anderson in Houston?” Just then, Jesse announced that the couple’s truck was ready. As they left, they shook the father’s hand and said they would pray for his son.

I watched the quiet family out of the corner of my eye. The boy pointed to the 25-cent jellybean dispenser. His dad fished a crumpled dollar bill from his jeans’ pocket and quietly said, “I’ll get change later.” Jesse had joined the workmen in the garage shop.

Desperate to help, I found one lone quarter in the bottom of my purse. “Here, this’ll get a handful of  jelly beans,” I said. The little boy slid off his dad’s knee and slowly walked to me. I wished for another quarter to give the girl. She never complained about not getting candy.

I asked the father, “Are you having tire trouble?”

“No. Trouble with the oil filter. I’m glad they can look at it today.” He didn’t offer other details.  I didn’t ask. I wondered if the mother was resting at the hospital. Or wasn’t she in the picture at all?

The boy clutched the jellybeans and climbed onto his father’s lap. Frustrated that I didn’t have cash,  I ripped a subscription card out of a magazine and wrote a note that I handed to Jesse when my car, with its new tires, was ready. My note: “Can I please pay this young man’s car repair bill?”

Jesse didn’t look up. “There won’t be one,” he said briskly. I paid my bill and he dashed to the garage shop again.

As I left, Jesse rushed into the waiting room. He walked to the father and held out his hand, as if to shake hands. Not saying a word, Jesse pressed a wad of money into the father’s hand.

There is much I could say about how privileged I feel to have witnessed this act of quiet kindness, but I’ll leave it at this: I’m never buying tires anywhere else.

 

 

 

 

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