As I left the restaurant where I’d met a friend for an early dinner, I noticed a man on the ground in the parking lot, working on the car next to mine.
As an American female, I’ve read the warnings and heard the horror stories of things that have happened to women in such situations. For a moment, I thought of getting in my vehicle from the passenger side to avoid any kind of trouble. I did a quick assessment of the situation, determined there was sufficient distance between our cars, and noted the high visibility from the street. There was not a great risk.
As I opened the driver’s side door of my car, I spoke to the man. After all, the warnings say to make eye contact and small talk, as a person who intends to do harm does not want their face to be remembered.
The man responded briefly.
I was settling into my vehicle when he spoke again. “I hate to ask, but could you roll that tire over here?”
The spare was leaning against the rear quarterpanel of the car as he was working on changing the passenger side front tire.
As I stepped closer, I realized he seemed to be in a bit of distress.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” he went on, “I just got out of the hospital with congestive heart failure. They installed a pacemaker defibrillator and it’s already shocked me once.”
Images of Ted Bundy and his cane ran through my mind. “Can you help me?” was his typical plea before he kidnapped his victims. My gentleman was partially lying on a rather large hammer. I felt a momentary panic.
I hesitated, and assessed the surroundings and potential dangers again, as well as my own internal guidance system. I read no real danger, just the imaginary kind.
As I rolled the tire to him, the man attempted to sit up, then fell back against the tire he had removed. His skin was dark, so I could not get an accurate assessment to paleness, but I knew something did not look right.
“I’ll put the tire on,” I told him.
Of course, that meant leaning over to lift a heavy object with my back to him.
Again, I assessed the situation. Again, I checked in that there was no actual threat.
I lifted the tire into position, only to realize that the car was not quite high enough off the ground. As I began turning the makeshift handle on the jack, the man struggled to sit up. He was insistent that he could manage.
I continued to turn the wrench attached to the jack as he continued to maneuver the tire into position.
As I repositioned myself, I realized the hem of my skirt had gotten soaked in a puddle. It had been raining while I was in the restaurant. The man, the ground, the tools, everything was soaking wet.
My heart went out to him. Tired mentally, physically, and emotionally, he had been through enough in the hospital. He did not need to be cold and wet in a parking lot, trying to work on a car.
Yet, there we were.
“Just another few turns,” he kept repeating as the car slowly rose.
The other thing he kept repeating was, “Thank you, Jesus.”
He said it so many times that I almost informed him that my name wasn’t Jesus.
And yet, maybe it was for him.
I’ve heard that it is every human’s job to be Jesus with skin on. Apparently, I used my opportunity well.
Even threading the lugs took a toll on him physically. I insisted he get out of the way and let me finish the job. I shared with him that I had watched my father die when I was twelve years old; I did not need to be witness to his death in the parking lot over his own stubbornness. There was something particularly sobering about that thought. He shared that he had witnessed his own father’s death 22 years before.
I threaded the rest of the lugs and picked up the lug wrench. He was directly behind me, the forgotten hammer by his side.
As I completed the first tightening and began lowering the car, he struggled to his feet to finish the job of tightening the lugs. Stubborn cuss.
He rolled the flat to the trunk and I lifted it in, depositing the rest of the tools, too.
He asked me what he owed me.
“One good turn,” I replied, looking into his beautiful eyes. “One good turn deserves another.”
I left the parking lot, and drove home with a smile.
I had done my good turn. Actually, I had done several turns on that wrench, in both directions. But I had turned my heart one good turn, and he had turned his, too.
There has been much talk about how to repair the racial tension here in Central Florida since the Trayvon Martin case. A white woman helped a black man change a tire in a parking lot. It was just one good turn, but it counts.
Blessings, my Loves! Blessings!
And one good turn for you, too!