Guest post by Clifford Sampier
The man ahead of me at the supermarket placed his items on the counter and watched as the checker did her work. He laid down his money to pay for his groceries when the checker said, “Sir, you don’t have enough money here.” Embarrassment swept over him.
As he fumbled through his pockets looking for some more cash my mind raced back to a Christmas day in the 1960s. After church in Oklahoma my wife and our two children headed for New Mexico to have Christmas with my parents. I knew things were not exactly right with my cooling system but it was Christmas Day and we were going to Grandma’s house. Besides that, I didn’t have the money to fix the car so we headed west by faith.
Less than 100 miles out of town the car began to heat up and soon was steaming hot. I pulled to the side of the road, raised the hood, and once the steam cleared I could see I had blown a gasket. There was nothing I could do.
We sat there for over an hour and watched a few cars go by but none bothered to stop and offer help. Even if I could limp my car back to town nothing would be open because it was Christmas. We were stranded.
Then it happened. An old model dilapidated Buick pulled in behind us and a big black man with a face full of grin got out and approached me. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Your car overheatin’?”
Once he looked under the hood he said, “We’ll brother, that ain’t serious.” He went to the back of his car and got a few tools and piece of inner-tube. He pulled the block off, scraped the old gasket off, molded the inner-tube where the factory made gasket once was, and bolted the block back in place.
He got some water from somewhere (to this day I can’t remember where) and poured it in the radiator. He then advised me that I could be on my way and that I should expect to have no further trouble.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked.
He replied, “Nothin’. It’s Christmas Day, ain’t it?” He smiled from ear to ear as he got back into his car. Then rolling down his window he said, “Somewhere along the way, help a brother.”
Standing on the side of the road I thanked him profusely. Curious to know, I asked him how long the inner-tube gasket would last. I can still hear his happy voice, “I don’t know, I’ve been driving with them for years.” He waved farewell and drove off with a “Merry Christmas!” We made it to Grandma’s house though a bit late but with no further problems.
I have never forgotten this kind stranger’s call to “somewhere along the way…help a brother.” His kindness expressed so many years ago caused me to reach into my pocket and lay down a $10 bill on the supermarket counter. I told the checker to take what was necessary to pay for the man’s groceries.
When he offered to pay me back I felt it inappropriate to explain everything. “Don’t mind about that, my friend.” I said as I gently touched his shoulder, “Somewhere along the way help a brother.”
Clifford Sampier lives in Littleton, Colo.